This year was incredible–scientifically, athletically, and personally. I had a lot of firsts that will, in some cases, likely never be seconds. I got both NIH grants that I first applied for in 2012 and then re-applied for in 2013; an F32 to investigate skeletal muscle regulation of sleep and metabolic processes and a loan repayment grant which will pay 50% of my educational loans over the next two years to examine biological sex regulation of sleep. I had two first-author papers published in PLoS One and Behavioural Brain Research with the former being my first publication as a postdoc and the latter being my last publication from graduate school. Athletically, my teammates and I qualified for the Reebok Crossfit Games where we competed against teams across the globe and picked up many sponsorships in the process. Words can’t describe the year of training, discipline, and commitment required for achieving this goal, but the payoff of competing with world-class athletes and being filmed for ESPN production was well worth the sacrifices. Personally, Montegraphia and I tied the knot!
Usually, I begin my annual best of blogging with January. This year, I’m going to travel backwards.
December: I’ve spent most of December abroad. Montegraphia and I went on our honeymoon to Western Europe. We took an 8-day cruise from Rome and traveled to Northern Italy, Barcelona, Marseilles, the ancient city of Carthage in North Africa, and Sicily. Here is a collage of photos from my favorite places in each country. Scientifically, I have recently become interested in the discovery of a “new” sleep center: the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is historically known as a reward center. But how can you experience pleasure without concurrently being awake?
November: Like every November, I attended the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. For the fifth year in a row, I was selected as the representative Neuroendocrine and Homeostatic Systems blogger for the annual meeting. It was fairly evident that viral vector-mediated techniques are saturating basic sleep research; over 50% of basic sleep-related posters used optogenetics or DREADDS. Back home, my postdoctoral laboratory published a (methods) paper in SLEEP that described a means to quantify physiological sleepiness with better temporal resolution.
October: Montegraphia and I tied the knot in my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. There was a considerable amount of sleep and circadian papers to review this month. One of the more salient papers that I discussed (per comments from readers) was in regards to the surprisingly lack of sleep disruption after binge drinking caffeinated alcoholic beverages. I also conducted a case study with a proprietary protein blend directed towards accelerating recovery while you sleep. The CEO of the company actually called me after seeing my blog post to discuss future products aimed towards recovery and performance that are underdevelopment.
September: This month, I found out that I got both of my NIH grants. Not only do I have three more additional years of job security, I finally can travel a bit more for training and professional development activities. I also talked about a circadian study that made the pages of Current Biology in which research subjects were recruited to camp in the Rockies for a few weeks. Not a bad idea.
August: August was a month of recovery from the Crossfit Games and the summer research program. This month, I learned about the death of Google Reader which I daily used since the days of graduate school to stay up-to-date on research. Oh well. Feedly is just as cool.
July: This month was cuckoo and crazy between mentoring our undergraduate summer fellows and training and then competing in the Crossfit Games! Scientifically, a rad study that identified biological clocks in a variety of garden vegetables was published.
June: I went to the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology meeting which happened to be here in Atlanta. It was weird reuniting with my friends, colleagues, and attending a major conference while sleeping in my own bed every night. I also learned that I was going to be a spokesperson for 23andme—a corporate genotyping company–after filling out a product review that piqued their curiosity! Since then, I’ve signed a press release allowing them to use the material collected from phone and Skype interviews that I have done for product promotion. One of my more popular posts that month speculated on the death of Michael Jackson. Top-rate researchers project that a lack of sleep, particularly REM sleep, was largely responsible for the death of this pop star.
May: This was one of the most memorable months of the year. First, we competed in the Southeast Crossfit Regionals in Palm Beach, FL. We finished third, advancing us to the Crossfit Games! It was wonderful to have my family in attendance cheering us on. I also had my first postdoc paper published in PLoS One on the impact of jet lag on sleep and inflammatory responses. My lab also had a second paper published in PLoS One biological sex regulation of sleep. Hilariously enough, Montegraphia ended up on a manuscript in my own postdoctoral laboratory before me by serving as a statistical consultant.
April: This month, my last paper from graduate work was published in Behavioural Brain Research. It examined how mice lacking the Per2 gene responded to cocaine in the presence of light or how the circadian system responded to cocaine. I also attended a wonderful animal behavior conference at Indiana University. It happened to coincide with the March Madness finals when Indiana was knocked out of contention. There were lots of somber, drunken souls wandering around campus one morning…
March: A few unusual circadian studies arose that examined behavioral and physiological rhythms in the camel. A separate study examined the frequency of Facebook posting. Another study has kept us on our toes because they reported how changing the expression of a gene in the skeletal muscle influences the ability to recover from sleep deprivation. Luckily for us, this was done in a non-mammalian species. It’s exciting that their results are in agreement with ours, but nonetheless nerve-wracking about the possibility of being scooped.
February: Every February, we have our in-house research symposium. This year, a neuroscientist from Duke University–Erik Jarvis–was invited. His research is fascinating because he studies “echo” communication in mice. Researchers are often warned by their IACUC about euthanizing animals in the presence of others because it elevates stress. Erik Jarvis’s research certainly supports this. I also wrote a blog post about a study that linked daily sleep durations with diet. I was fascinated to learn that the paleo diet which is rich in leafy greens and proteins was highly correlated with shorter sleep durations.
January: January was kind of lame for sleep and circadian research. There wasn’t much published, but there was one study that found seasonal changes in adenosine signaling–a neurochemical biomarker of physiological sleepiness.
As 2013 ends, I am grateful for the continuing support of Dormivigilia. Thank you! The action won’t stop in 2014. Also, I hope to have a couch read for you by the end of 2014.