UMA Students take part in MDI Biological Laboratory Program adapted to maintain social distancing

Curriculum revised to allow students to take part in program when COVID-19 and need for social distancing prohibited in-person laboratory experience

During March break, five University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) students participated in an exciting educational opportunity through the MDI Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) in Bar Harbor. Initially scheduled as an in-person program, the MDIBL program facilitators quickly adapted, given the social distancing requirements of the COVID-19 virus, to provide the program online using multiple teaching platforms for interactive classes.

“We were disappointed that we could not gather together at MDI Biological Laboratory but were determined to provide the students with a comparable learning experience through an online program,” stated Dr. Juyoung Shim, a member of the UMA Biology Department and this year’s MDIBL course director.

The participating students were selected from a large field of candidates to take part in a week-long course focusing on research in Biomedical Sciences. The UMA students participating in the Bridging Disciplines: The Impacts of Environmental Chemicals on Aging and Physiology research program were Samantha Brown, Bronte Elias, Emma Lord, Sarah Nichols, and Rorie Short.

This type of research opportunity provided experiential learning to UMA students and is beneficial for those pursuing graduate studies or health professions upon graduation.

According to the MDIBL, the week-long course provides the fundamental concepts of toxicology and aging biology via lectures, discussions, reading current news articles and scientific publications, and critical thinking exercises. Students will receive from MDIBL a program Certificate of Completion in the mail.

Brown is a veteran student double majoring in biology and nursing. Upon graduation, she intends to continue her education and is considering either an osteopathic or advance nurse practitioner program. Brown, her husband, and children reside in St. Albans.

Elias hails from Madison and is an applied science major and Lord is a biology major from Cabot, VT.

Nichols is a biology major who lives in Hallowell with her three kids and cat. After graduating from UMA, she has plans to pursue graduate school in biological research.

Short, a Rockland resident and retired from the Army after 20 years, is a full-time student majoring in biology. He attends classes at the UMA Rockland Center and after graduation he plans to continue his education “with a long term goal of working in a research lab here in Maine.”

In addition to Dr. Shim, other program faculty members included Dr. Douglas Currie, USM Associate Professor of Biology; Dr. Jane E. Disney, MDI Senior Staff Scientist, Director of Research Training, and Director of Community Environmental Health Laboratory; and Dr. Frederic Bonnet, MDI Staff Scientist and Microscopist; and Dr. Nishad Jayasundara, UMaine Assistant Professor, Honors College.

UMA’s biology majors graduate with a broad spectrum of career options. Many graduates obtain positions in laboratory science in both the public and private sectors and in education, while others successfully pursue graduate study in the biological sciences, medical school, and in allied health programs leading to careers as physician’s assistants or pharmacists. More information about UMA’s Biology Program.

Additional Information

About MDI Biological Laboratory
“The MDI Biological Laboratory is a rapidly growing, independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution. Its mission is to improve human health and well-being through basic research, education, and development ventures that transform discoveries into cures.” For more information, please visit

About UMA
UMA transforms the lives of students of every age and background across the State of Maine and beyond through access to high-quality distance and on-site education, excellence in student support, civic engagement, and professional and liberal arts programs. For more information, please visit