B.S., James Madison University 2014
I’m a second year student in the Biomedical Science Ph.D. program. Although I’m originally from NY, I decided to pursue my undergraduate studies in Harrisonburg, VA at James Madison University. At JMU, I was involved in both human and animal research. Under Dr. Jeff Dyche, I examined circadian rhythm function in substance using individuals, while under Dr. Corey Cleland, I examined the withdrawal reflex response involved in pain modulation in rats. I also served as a William C. Dement Sleep and Chronobiology Research Fellow in the Bradley Sleep Lab at Brown University during summer 2013, as well as a Supervising Sleep Technician during summer 2014. At Brown, I worked under Dr. Mary Carskadon investigating the relationship between sleep, circadian rhythms, and food choices in overweight versus normal weight adolescents. I graduated with a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Biology in May 2014 and subsequently started my graduate work at UMaine in September 2014.
My research is conducted under the guidance of Dr. Alan Rosenwasser, whose laboratory primarily investigates the role of the circadian system in addiction and psychiatric disorders. Through the process of evolution, humans have become incredibly fine-tuned “time-keeping machines.” Every cell in our bodies possesses an “internal clock,” a transcriptional-translational loop that regulates the cell’s activities (i.e. biochemical functions) depending on time cues (e.g. light) that specify the approximate time of day. These peripheral clocks are orchestrated by a “master clock,” the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is located in the anterior hypothalamus. This region of the brain receives input from intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGCs), which are located in the retina and project directly to the SCN via the retinohypothalamic tract. The photosensitive protein contained in ipRGCs, melanopsin, enables the SCN to entrain to the approximate time of day and generate an appropriate biological rhythm.
The development of this system has enabled organisms to synchronize the various neuronal, hormonal, and biochemical processes constantly occurring in their bodies, therefore having profound implications for human development, health, and ultimate survival. Different systems perform different tasks at different times, thus consistent desynchronization of our clocks (a recurrent byproduct of our modern “24/7” society) may be a significant factor underlying the increasing incidence of disease in the general population. Specifically, dysregulation of the circadian system’s molecular components is associated with numerous physical and mental health disorders. This evidence encourages biomedical treatments to include correcting circadian misalignment in future interventions.