From left, Nadia Rosenthal of The Jackson Laboratory, College of the Atlantic’s Darron Collins, the lab’s Edison Liu and COA’s Chris Petersen celebrate the launch of their new collaborative academic program, the Fellowship in Biomedical Research. PHOTO COURTESY OF COA, JAX

COA teams with lab

BAR HARBOR — A select group of students will soon join the frontlines 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 Program will support two COA students each year to work with lab scientists researching potential cures for everything from glaucoma to cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. This extended fellowship allows for 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,” said COA President Darron Collins.

Under the fellowship agreement, funded by both institutions, 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, president and CEO of 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 also comes in part from the Maine Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), of which both institutions are 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 Chris Petersen, biology professor and associate academic dean at the college.

COA students previously have 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 the lab are a vital part of the college 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.”

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