The Jackson Laboratory and College of the Atlantic launch new academic program

COA Jackson Lab

Jackson Laboratory Scientific Director Nadia Rosenthal, left, College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins, JAX President and CEO Edison Liu, M.D., and COA Associate Academic Dean Chris Petersen celebrate the launch of their new collaborative academic program, the Fellowship in Biomedical Research.

BAR HARBOR — A select group of students will soon join the front lines of cutting edge genetic research thanks to a new academic collaboration between The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution, and College of the Atlantic (COA).

The new Fellowship in Biomedical Research will support two COA students each year to work with JAX scientists researching potential cures for everything from glaucoma to cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. This extended fellowship allows for a deep immersion in biomedical and genetic research at an early point in a young scientist’s career.

“Having undergraduate students work with a world-class institution like JAX, and with scientists on the cutting edge of genetic research, is an incredible opportunity, and one that truly differentiates COA from other colleges,” COA president Darron Collins ’92 said.

Under the fellowship agreement, funded by both institutions, COA students will be supported by a stipend for academic year and summer research experiences, as well as room and board during the summer.

“We see fellowships like this one as part of our larger mission to empower the global biomedical community in our shared quest to improve human health,” said Edison Liu, M.D., president and CEO, The Jackson Laboratory. “Working together with these dynamic, motivated students from COA is a rewarding way to support and challenge the next generation of great scientists, and it’s wonderful to partner with another Maine-based organization to continue building our future workforce.”

Funding for the project comes from JAX, COA and, in part, from the Maine Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), of which JAX and COA are both members. This collaborative network of Maine educational and research institutions is led by the MDI Biological Laboratory and sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

“The Jackson Laboratory is a premier institution in biomedical research, and these research opportunities provide our students with the kind of real-world research experiences that are vital to their education,” said COA biology professor and associate academic dean Chris Petersen.

COA students have previously worked with lab scientists under informal agreements, and have coauthored scientific papers, gone on to graduate work in biomedical research, and taken jobs in medicine, veterinary positions, and other related fields, Petersen said.

“Our educational model is, whenever possible, to go beyond classroom learning, and to do real work in the real world,” Petersen said. “This type of work gives students the tools they need to succeed down the road.”

Close relationships with Mount Desert Island community partners such as JAX are a vital part of the COA curriculum, and a cornerstone of the College’s long-term strategic plan, Collins said.

“Under our educational model, the COA experience expands well beyond the physical boundaries of our campus,” Collins said. “We are excited to continue to build our relationship with JAX.”

College of the Atlantic was the first college in the U.S. to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. In 2016, both The Princeton Review and the Sierra Club named College of the Atlantic the #1 Green College in the United States. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in human ecology – the study of how humans interact with our natural, social and technological environments. Each student develops their own course of study in human ecology, collaborating and innovating across multiple disciplines.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs 1,800 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health. For more information, please visit