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sam broadbent

Biotech Training and Tools for Maine Students!

Freeport resident Samuel Broadbent’s first exposure to the advanced gene-editing technology called “CRISPR” came during a short course for undergraduates, held on the Bar Harbor campus of MDI Bio Lab.

That fired an ongoing interest in the science of developmental biology. “I find development to be particularly fascinating, how we go from a single cell to an entire organism,” he says.

Today Broadbent continues to pursue his passion at MDI Bio Lab, where most recently he has been training to use a truly state-of-the-art 3D “light sheet” microscope that the Lab just constructed – one of only 20 like it in the world.

“MDI Bio Lab has an amazing variety of tools which are really unique, like this microscope,” Broadbent says. “There are a lot of techniques and technologies at this institution that you can’t necessarily get working at other labs. I think that’s a big advantage for me, going forward as a young scientist, an aspiring scientist.”

map of locations in maine
Fourteen Maine educational and research institutions share faculty and scientific infrastructure via the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), led by MDI Bio Lab and funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

And those tools are at the service of science-hungry learners all over Maine, from high schoolers to senior researchers, thanks to a collaborative network of 14 educational and research institutions led by MDI Bio Lab. The network provides them the advanced tools, training, and research experience they need to fully participate in today’s biotech revolution. 

The federally funded program is called the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (Maine INBRE), and over the last decade it’s trained and provided research experience to thousands of Mainers. Ninety percent of them have pursued post-graduate degrees or careers in health-related fields, and 21% are earning advanced degrees here in Maine.

MDI Bio Lab also hosts dozens of undergraduate summer fellows who spend up to 10 weeks embedded in the laboratories of our 11 biomedical research faculty. They are investigating fundamental mechanisms of aging and regeneration, aided by advanced gene-editing technology, bioinformatic and computational analysis, animal models for human health, and leading-edge 3D microscopy.

As many as 800 people cycle through the courses and conferences held on our seaside campus each year. After that gene-editing short course sponsored by the Maine INBRE network in early 2022, Broadbent initially volunteered in the laboratory of MDI Bio Lab’s Prayag Murawala, Ph.D., where he works with axolotl salamanders, whose prolific ability to regenerate limbs and organs (including the brain) is informing the search to improve our own regenerative capacities.

And thanks to support from our donors, Broadbent is now working as a paid research fellow, as he finishes up his undergraduate degree in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Maine.

in the lab

The University’s Honors College is a member of the Maine INBRE, as are Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin colleges, College of the Atlantic, the Jackson Laboratory, Southern Maine Community College, the University of New England, the University of Maine, and the UMaine system campuses at Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, and Presque Isle.

Broadbent says he’s come to value MDI Bio Lab’s intimate and informal atmosphere.

“It’s small, there’s more community, not as corporate as some other places are, and there are opportunities to find a great mentor,” he says. “You can really talk to other scientists; there’s not so many barriers.”

Learn more about how scientists like Sam are using our cutting edge microscopes and other technology at our next Science Café, on August 14!