The overall goal of my research program is to investigate environmental modulation of circadian clock function in mammalian systems and the contribution of clock disruption to pathological disease. One of the most exciting discoveries that has emerged in recent years is that the circadian molecular clock regulates excitability in neurons that are spontaneously active in the absence of synaptic input. Although the intrinsic 24-h rhythm in membrane properties of neurons of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) has been known for over 30 years, it is surprising that we know very little about how the brain’s circadian clock regulates circadian rhythmicity throughout the body as well as in other brain regions. We are interested in how nutrition (high caloric diets, meal timing) and disease (obesity, neurodegeneration) influence clock-driven changes in physiology and behavior in brain regions such as the SCN, hippocampus and substantia nigra. A second, related interest of the laboratory is translation what we have learned about circadian regulation in animal models to humans, specifically by determining the impact of environmental circadian misalignment (e.g., shift work) or addiction (e.g., smoking) on circadian rhythmicity of behavior and physiology.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as a faculty member is training the next generation of scientists in my laboratory and in the classroom. Since starting my independent laboratory in 2009, I have mentored postdocs, graduate students, undergraduate students, and summer high school students. In addition, I have also been rewarded with the opportunity to mentor ~40 other graduate students by serving as the Neuroscience Theme Director of the Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS) program from 2016-2021. I have served on their thesis committees for many of these students. Throughout my career and training, I have realized the importance of obtaining extramural funding. As a predoctoral and postdoctoral fellow, I was granted individual F31 and F32 awards as well as a position on a postdoctoral T32 training grant. Finally, I completed my training with one of the first cycles of NIH K99/R00 awards. Together, these experiences have taught me the necessary building blocks for a successful training program. My graduate trainees have successfully received F31 applications. In the classroom, I have served as the course director for the Neuroscience Graduate Student Summer Seminar Series and currently direct the Introduction to Biostatistics and the Circadian Clocks Journal Club. In addition, I was invited to lead two workshops on for Trainee Day at the 2012 Society for Research in Biological Rhythms (SRBR) meeting. After this rewarding experience, I served as the Professional Development Day director for the 2014 and 2016 SRBR meetings. In 2014, I served as one of the invited instructors for the International Chronobiology Summer School, where I directed workshops on “Clock control of excitability” and “Statistical Analysis of Rhythmic Data.”