Martha J. Marvin

Photo of Martha J. Marvin

Lecturer in Neuroscience

Morley Science Laboratory 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

Development and regeneration

Zebrafish heart development

Genetic influences on stress behavior in zebrafish

K-12 science outreach


BIOL 455 / NSCI 455 SEM

Neural Regeneration (not offered 2024/25)


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

Research data analysis

Students will learn to analyze diverse data sets. Courses on the use of R, Python, and statistical methods are all available on the learning platform, in flexible, self-paced modules. Faculty researchers will guide their students in applications to analysis of their research data.

A message from the platform: This class is supported by DataCamp, an intuitive learning platform for data science and analytics.

Local or remote students can become expert in R, Python, SQL, and more. DataCamp’s learn-by-doing methodology combines short expert videos and hands-on-the-keyboard exercises to help learners retain knowledge. DataCamp offers 350+ courses by expert instructors on topics such as importing data, data visualization, and machine learning. They’re constantly expanding their curriculum to keep up with the latest technology trends and to provide the best learning experience for all skill levels. 



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.


BIOL 455: Neural Regeneration

Injury to the human nervous system can cause lasting impairment, but non-mammalian animals have prodigious capacity to regenerate neurons, regrow axons, and repair scars. Regeneration—whether through neuronal replacement, repair or repurposing—will be explored by investigating the molecular foundations that underlie neuronal proliferation, neural plasticity, and inflammatory responses. We will consider the potential for translating these findings to aid humans who suffer from neural injury or neurodegenerative disease.