Last month, I travelled down to the University of Oxford along with other PhD students and sleep researchers from around the world, to learn from experts in the field of chronobiology and sleep medicine at the annual SCNi Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience summer school.
The week was full of really informative lectures and workshops themed around chronobiology and sleep taught by experts in the field (Profs Till Roenneberg, Martha Merrow and Russell Foster to name a few). Although my PhD project comes under the theme of “chronobiology”, it was fascinating to learn about sleep, particularly about the different stages of sleep and the variation in preferences for sleep timing in humans. If you’d like to know your personal sleep preference (and help out with some cool research), you can take a quick questionnaire to find out what “chronotype” you are here !
Coming from a zoology background, it was very useful for me to learn about the different aspects of clock biology, in particular, the history of clock biology, definitions of a “circadian rhythm” and the current thoughts on how clock entrainment mechanisms work. It was also really cool to learn about rhythms in plants, something you don’t really think about unless you study them! The most useful topic for me though, was that of circadian disruption, and how disrupting your natural biological rhythm through exposure to artificial light or working shifts can seriously affect your health. This is of particular relevance to my project on the daily rhythms of birds living in urban environments, so I left the school feeling extra motivated.
I also got to present my first poster! Although I don’t have any results yet, it was great to chat to other clock biologists about my project. I really look forward to more presentations in the future when I have some results to show!
It was an intense week, and by the Friday we were all exhausted… but still had a little energy for a party in one of the college grounds, which was great fun! I am really grateful not just for everything I have learned at the school, but also for the opportunity to meet other like-minded clock biologists from around the world, some of whom I will hopefully see at a future UK Clock Club, or European Biological Rhythms Society meet-up next year!