Martha Marvin

Photo of Martha Marvin

Lecturer in Neuroscience

Morley Science Laboratories Rm 126
At Williams since 2007


B.A. University of California, Berkeley, Chemistry (1984)
Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Biology (1995)

Areas of Expertise

Zebrafish heart development

Genetic influences on stress behavior in zebrafish

K-12 science outreach



My chief research interests are cardiovascular development and the molecular mechanisms underlying variations in stress reactivity, using zebrafish as a model organism. Exposure to early life stress can lead to lifelong changes in stress responses, putting individuals at greater risk of developing mood disorders. My lab investigates the molecular responses to stress in zebrafish. We are particularly interested in epigenetic regulation of genes in the stress-response pathway, focusing on fkbp5. This gene may hold promise as a target for drug development to treat the consequences of dysregulation of the stress response. Zebrafish are an excellent model in which to study the developing heart, the most common organ to suffer birth defects in humans. Heart development is influenced by cellular receptors for numerous factors, and is therefore vulnerable to the effects of environmental chemicals such as endocrine disruptors. My lab is investigating the influence of estrogen-like compounds on heart development.


Summer Research Session

Data analysis and Bioinformatics

Students will learn to analyze diverse data sets and perform meta-analyses of RNA-seq data from zebrafish and other vertebrates. The use of R, Python, and statistical methods will be covered.

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NSCI 212: Introduction to Neuroscience (lab instructor)

A study of the relationship between brain, mind, and behavior. Topics include a survey of the structure and function of the nervous system, basic neurophysiology, development, learning and memory, sensory and motor systems, consciousness and clinical disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and addiction. The laboratory focuses on current topics in neuroscience.

Winter Study

BIOL 11: Project BioEyes (co-instructor)

BioEYES brings tropical fish to 3rd-grade classrooms in Williamstown, North Adams, and Lanesborough Elementary schools, in a science teaching workshop. Elementary school students will breed fish at the school, then study their development and pigmentation during one week. Williams students will adapt BioEYES lesson plans to the science curriculum for the schools we visit, work with classroom teachers to introduce concepts in genetics and development, help the 3rd-grade students in the classroom, and assess elementary student learning. No zebrafish experience is necessary; during the first week, students will learn to set up fish matings and learn about embryonic development and the genetics of fish pigmentation as well as practice teaching the 3rd-grade BioEYES lesson plans with hands-on experiments using living animals. In the subsequent three weeks, students will present lessons at the schools and review assessment data.