GEM Class of 2018 at the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (photo: Shannon McFadden).

Global Environmental Microbiology (GEM) Summer Course

Applications for the 2020 course are now closed.

You are mainly microbe – much like Earth’s biodiversity. Microbes are everywhere (in our guts, in the deep seafloor, and everywhere in between) and we are still learning about who they are, what they do, and how they do it.

The GEM course is an introductory, aquatic microbiology course for early career undergraduates who are contemplating a career in scientific research. The course combines classroom learning with hands-on activities. Students attend lectures and discussions about aquatic microbiology, learn to use laboratory equipment and how to collect samples from the environment, practice their presentation skills, collaborate with your fellow classmates, and talk to graduate students and professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to explore career options.

Taught by Drs. John Heidelberg and Eric Webb, the 2020 course will be three weeks in length (June 14 through July 2). Students will spend the first few days of the course at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, California and the remaining time at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Santa Catalina Island. Although activities are scheduled every day of the three-week program, the course schedule includes opportunities to hike, swim, snorkel, kayak, play volleyball, etc.

The Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) is a Science and Technology Center funded by the National Science Foundation started in 2010 with the mission to explore life (microbes!) beneath the seafloor and make transformative discoveries that advance science, benefit society, and inspire people of all ages and origins.

C-DEBI seeks to recruit participants that reflect the diversity of students at the community college and university level with varied science-learning and life experiences. We encourage students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields as well as first generation college students to apply. We are committed to improving access and support for members of underrepresented and marginalized groups to be able to succeed in STEM fields.

Course expenses, travel, room, and board are paid for by C-DEBI, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Ideal candidates are:

  • Interested in a science (or STEM field) career
  • Scientifically curious and willing to explore scientific research
  • Open to new experiences
  • Dedicated learners
  • Able to commit to attending the entire three-week course (including weekends)
  • U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Enrolled in college, early career undergraduates (ideally first or second year students)
  • Have completed at least one semester/quarter-long science course at a 2 or 4-year college/university (biology, chemistry, physics, geology, etc.)
  • Must be at least 18 years of age before the first day of the course

Application Instructions:

  1. Read and complete the online application form.
  2. Submit an unofficial transcript to Gwen Noda (
  3. Provide one letter of recommendation, preferably from a professor or instructor. Please ask that your letter be emailed directly to Gwen Noda at Please see online application for more information and recommendations for the contents of the letter.

Applications are due Wednesday, March 25, 2020 by 5:00pm Pacific Standard Time.