Baskin, Fritz-Laylin Awarded Whitman Center Fellowships

Tobias Baskin
Tobias Baskin

Two members of the biology faculty, professor Tobias Baskin and assistant professor Lillian Fritz-Laylin, have been awarded separate Whitman Center fellowships to support research this summer at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) on Cape Cod.

The fellowships will provide housing and laboratory space for 10 weeks at MBL, a private nonprofit institution affiliated with the University of Chicago.

Baskin will be working with Rudolph Oldenbourg, MBL resident scientist at Woods Hole and a pioneer in 3-D polarized light microscopy, the 2-D version of which Baskin already uses in his work on morphogenesis in plants.

“This is powerful because you’re actually at the level of molecular orientation,” Baskin said.

The goal for the summer is to advance the building of a polarizing microscope that can focus not on a slice of tissue, but on a whole cell. “I’d like to be able to look at plant cells while they’re alive,” Baskin said.

Fritz-Laylin will continue her study of Bradiochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a chytrid fungus associated with chytridiomycosis, a disease devastating amphibian populations world-wide.

Bd and other chytrids are famous for being able to swim with a flagellum (like a human sperm).

Fritz-Laylin recently found that Bd is also capable of crawling, like an amoeba. Further, “the structures it uses for crawling may also be used to engulf and eat things,” she said. She is interested in finding related organisms in marine environments.

Her lab on campus has been working to precisely define mechanical modes of locomotion in multiple microorganisms and then identify the genes underlying these complex traits.

MBL convenes biologists from around the world each year to advance the mission of biological discovery.