Marine Biological Laboratory
Department of Education
7 MBL Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Email Address:

Program Dates:  June 9 – August 16, 2024

Application Deadline:  Priority Deadline – February 15, 2024; Final Deadline – March 10, 2024

Please read the entire Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and the Program Details before contacting the Marine Biological Laboratory with questions.  Any questions not covered in the Program Details and/or FAQs must be sent to  Please do not contact the education office at the MBL as that will only delay any response.  Please Note:  All application materials must be uploaded through the ETAP application system, not via email.

Application website:

Application details are listed later in this page.


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) invites undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing careers in the life sciences to apply to the NSFREU Biological Discovery in Woods Hole Program. Faculty with expertise in molecular and cell biology, neurobiology & behavior, physiology, developmental biology, and evolutionary biology will guide ten highly motivated undergraduate students in this National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSFREU) program.

Each undergraduate student will be placed in the laboratory of an MBL research scientist and fully participate in all laboratory exercises and activities.  The program will provide a stipend (~$7000 in 2024) and room and board for the duration of the program.  For priority consideration, applications are due by February 15, 2024.  Students from small colleges or from underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.  Although the admissions committee may continue to review and accept applications up until March 10, 2023, it is strongly suggested that your completed application be received by February 15, 2024 to allow time for consideration of your entire file.  The admissions committee reserves the right to suspend admission any time after February 15 if the program is filled.  Students will begin to be notified by the end of March.

THE PROGRAM:  The Biological Discovery in Woods Hole (BDWH) Program is designed as an intensive, 10-week experience for undergraduates at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  The major portion of each student’s time will be dedicated to an individual research project under the direction of one of the participating mentors – see Mentor List below.  The program will be conducted from mid-June through mid-August each summer and will integrate the students with the marine setting and the unique intellectual blend of year-round and summer investigators at the MBL to provide a diverse and varied undergraduate research experience.  The program will focus on the molecular, cellular, and physiological processes that give rise to and regulate complex physiological systems, and which ultimately mediate organismal behavior.  Investigators use both marine and non-marine models.  The program’s goal is to recruit highly motivated students, especially from under-represented groups and/or schools with limited research opportunities and immerse them in research programs under the guidance of mentors selected from visiting summer investigators, or year-round investigators at the MBL who are fully committed to enhancing the undergraduate research experience.  To augment the research experience, students will participate in field trips and attend weekly course meetings, seminars and/or luncheons that will explore a wide range of topics (e.g., graduate school application, ethics, career paths) to encourage the students to prepare and pursue a career in biological sciences.  There will also be group activities, field trips, and barbeques to provide peer interactions.  Finally, the program will culminate with an undergraduate research symposium.

THE RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT:  The Marine Biological Laboratory is an international center for research, education, and training in biology.  It was established in 1888 as an institute where marine organisms were used as model systems in the study of cell biology, neurobiology, and embryology.  During the summer, the 270 year-round scientists and support staff of the MBL are joined by an additional 300 visiting scientists in our Whitman Center for Visiting Research, as well as 1200 graduate and postdoctoral students and faculty in our Advanced Research Training Courses, all from over 200 institutions worldwide.  Scientists are attracted to the MBL as well by the opportunity to collaborate with investigators at the other scientific institutions in Woods Hole.  They include the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the United States Geological Survey, and the Woodwell Climate Research Center.  In the small village of Woods Hole, this concentration of researchers and institutions results in a scientific community unparalleled in the world.

RESEARCH FACILITIES:  The MBL houses a number of unique research facilities.  These include a state-of-the-art Marine Resources Center, which provides for the latest approaches in husbandry and mariculture of marine organisms; advanced equipment for light microscopy combined with computer imaging; and the MBL/WHOI Library, which is one of the most complete science libraries in the world.  There are numerous opportunities to attend a variety of seminars and lectures.  The MBL hosts many educational courses which run through the summer.  Those courses draw their instructional faculty from leading researchers in the respective fields and each offers a daily lecture or seminar series which is open to the scientific community at large.  The MBL Friday Night Lecture Series brings in speakers of particular note who are of interest to a wider audience.  Additionally, a number of courses and groups sponsor informal evening or lunch-time seminars.

ELIGIBILITY:  Undergraduate student participants will be supported with National Science Foundation funds and must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions.  An undergraduate student is a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a bachelor’s degree.  Students who will have graduated from their institution prior to the summer program are not eligible to apply.  Students who are transferring from one institution to another and are not enrolled at either institution during the intervening summer, may participate.  High school graduates who have not yet enrolled and students who have received their bachelor’s degree and are no longer enrolled as an undergraduate are not eligible.

STIPEND & HOUSING:  Students will receive a stipend of approximately $7000 for the 2024 program.  Room and board will be provided in MBL dormitories which are on the MBL campus and a stone’s throw from the ocean.  The rooms are shared, and the BDWH students are usually assigned rooms together.  Each student will receive a travel allowance.

TO APPLY:  We strongly encourage students to apply by the priority consideration date of February 15, 2024, although applications may be accepted until March 10, 2024.  Students will be notified of application status in March 2024, at which time students accepted into the program will receive additional registration and housing information.  The online application form can be accessed after December 10, 2023.  Students from underrepresented groups and/or small colleges are especially encouraged to apply.

Applications must be submitted through  You will need to create an account and then log in to the site.  There will be a series of questions that are required for all NSF-REU applications.  We do not have any control over their content. 

To apply to our program, you want to select MBL REU “Biological Discovery in Woods Hole” 2024 Marine Biological Laboratory.  The screenshot below is from the ETAP website.

NSF REU Screenshot

You will be asked to provide a personal statement, select what graduate degree you would like to pursue, choose three to five mentors, explain why you choose each mentor and then upload your CV or resume and unofficial transcripts.  You will also be asked to provide the name, position, institution, and email for two or three references.  Following the initial screening of applications, your references may be contacted to provide a letter of reference.  These requests will be solicited throughout the application period.  At the appropriate time, these references may be sent an email with directions on how to upload their letters of recommendation. 

Students are selected based on their academic credentials, essays, and letters, with the aim of ensuring a diversity of students with respect to race, gender, geography, and academic background.  Students are matched with faculty mentors based on course work, experience, and/or expressed research interest, as well as availability of mentors.  Please note:  students will be applying to the program, and not to a specific mentor.  Mentor selection on the application form is for the purposes of placement of selected students and is not a factor in the selection process.  Although most students are assigned one of their top three mentor choices, we cannot guarantee that students will be placed in these labs.

ACCEPTANCE & MENTOR ASSIGNMENTS:  Notices of acceptance into the program will be sent to applicants beginning in March.  After the students confirm their participation in the program, they will receive a schedule of orientation activities, as well as a roster of all student and research mentor participants in the program and information on the MBL, including travel and housing.  The program co-directors will then make tentative assignments of each student to a research mentor.  These assignments take into account any preferences for particular research areas that the students express in their applications and previous research experiences (if any).  A synopsis of the student’s background is sent to the proposed mentor for review and approval and the mentor is instructed to contact the student by email and/or phone to provide the student with background information and materials to be read to prepare the student for the research project.

STUDENT ACTIVITIES:  The main emphasis of our program is to maximize time spent in the laboratory with your mentor.  However, there are a number of both required (and optional) activities that students are expected to attend.  A sample week schedule is detailed below.

Sample week

Most students walk to the lab after breakfast and are finished by dinner time.  However different labs may have different hours.  In addition to the research, there are other requirements (unless noted as optional) during the typical week as follows:

Monday morning program meeting ( 30 minutes)
Monday night professional development workshop (2 hrs)
Wednesday invite a scientist to lunch (1 hr).
Thursday Undergraduate night (after dinner, optional)
Friday Night Seminar (1 hr)