Colgate students have fanned out across the globe to apply their liberal arts know-how in a variety of real-world settings. They are writing back to keep our community posted on their progress. This article was written by Jacob King ’18, a molecular biology major from Burlington, Conn.
This summer, I’m on campus completing research with biology professor Krista Ingram. Professor Ingram is a leading researcher on circadian rhythms — physical, psychological, and behavioral patterns that roughly follow a 24-hour cycle in humans.
These rhythms influence important aspects of life, like sleep-wake cycles and hormone release. Researchers have also found a correlation between abnormal circadian rhythms and health issues like obesity, cancer, and psychological disorders.
When Chloe Weiss ’18, Celine Marlin Andrews ’18, and I walked into the lab on our first day, we had no idea what to expect. Unlike some research interns, we began at square one, learning about the current findings in the field in order to form a hypothesis that had not already been addressed. We decided that we want to see how student-athletes’ circadian rhythms could influence their performance, both physically and academically.
Our schedule consists of two types of days. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do sampling on human participants: the football players who are on campus for the summer. We have the players complete a physical and cognitive task for us, then collect biological markers, which are physical measurements of effort. In our study, we look at heart rate and a stress hormone found in saliva.
The second type of day occurs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and consists of mostly processing the saliva we collected, taking the raw data from participants’ task scores, and correlating their performance with their circadian rhythm by looking at the expression levels of certain clock genes.
Clock genes are a set of genes that influence the body’s ability to cycle within 24 hours. Measuring their expression involves looking at the subject’s RNA; the more RNA a subject has at a certain time of day, the more the gene is being expressed.
Then, we have the participants complete a survey that asks about certain daily routines and sleeping habits and allows us to predict what type of rhythm they have.
We have been able work through every aspect of a researcher’s life and get to see the results within the same summer, which is incredible. We hope to have our research published in the months ahead.
Going into my junior year at Colgate, I can easily say that I will be looking into research after I graduate.