Sleep and Memory: Amelia Brown ‘18

Brown

Brown

If you’ve ever woken up after a bad night’s sleep and been unable to focus on anything throughout the day, you know that sleep has an effect on memory. But how closely are they related?

Biology major Amelia Brown ‘18 is studying the link as part of a Summer Scholars Project. She Is studying the behavior of Caenorhabditis elegans, a species of transparent roundworms, as they experience differing levels of sleep.

The organism was the first multicellular organism to have its whole genome sequenced. “C. elegans are a perfect subject to study because we know so much about them, and it’s easy to note changes in their biology,” Brown says.

She exposes the roundworms to chemicals early in their adult life cycle, noting how they respond. Then, after they sleep, she reintroduces the chemicals and measures how similar the response is depending on how much sleep they got. This method is called imprinting.

Matthew Nelson, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, is Brown’s mentor for the project. He says that the project has roots in biology’s biggest questions.

“Amelia’s project is addressing one of nature’s greatest biological mysteries: why do animals sleep?” he says. “Long term memories are formed during sleep in more complex animals, like humans, and we propose that this is occurring in C. elegans as well. The worm provides us with an avenue for rapidly understanding how sleep and memory are linked with single cell and molecular resolution.”

Brown says that the Summer Scholars program gives her extra time to do in-depth, focused research.

“During the semester it can be difficult to get procedures done in between classes and work,” she says. “It’s great having the summer to really focus on my research. Even though I am less than a month into my project, I already feel like I’ve learned many new techniques that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.”

Outside the lab, Brown is a member of the biology club and participates in SJU’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program, where she is a board member. She is also a McNulty Fellow for the summer.

–Jeffrey Martin ’04, ’05 (M.A.)

Office of University Communications

***

Summer Scholars Project Title: Sleep and Memory in Caenorhabditis elegans

Mentor: Matthew D. Nelson, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology

High School: South Broward High School, Hollywood, Florida

Social Justice and Social Media: Elizabeth Krotulis ’17

Krotulis

Krotulis

Hashtags have become such an ingrained part of our culture that we use them in our spoken conversation. In 2014, Merriam-Webster added the term to its dictionary. But what’s behind all the hashtags we see on social media, other than collecting all our thoughts on a particular subject into one stream?

English major Liz Krotulis ’17 is spending her summer researching just that. As part of a Summer Scholars project, Krotulis is studying the communities behind certain social justice hashtags — including #climatechange, #globalwarming, #sustainability and #keepphillybeautiful — on Twitter and Instagram.

“The goal for the study is to learn more about these communities by examining how and why members tweet and post the way they do,” Krotulis explains. She will use mixed research methods to gather information, including data collecting, interviews and “netnography,” a branch of anthropology in which a researcher observes life from the point of view of the subject to better understand their thinking.

Her mentor, Bill Wolff, Ph.D., assistant professor of communications studies, has performed similar research on how fans of Bruce Springsteen form a community through hashtags.

“The thing that I’ve learned studying hashtags is that there is no one-size-fits all model,” Wolff says. “Each hashtag is used in unique ways depending on the people using it. That’s why it is so important to look at the content of the tweets and posts themselves and not just focus on the fact that the hashtag exists.”

Krotulis says that she chose to participate in Summer Scholars because it gives her a chance to conduct in-depth research for the first time.

“I’m excited to experience conducting an academic study, because I’ve never done anything on this scale before,” she says. “The process itself is something I want to learn and understand. It sometimes feels intimidating, but [Wolff’s] guidance is extremely helpful and gives me confidence to complete all steps of the project well.”

During the academic year, Krotulis is a tutor at SJU’s Writing Center, a copyeditor for The Hawk student newspaper, a weekly service volunteer and an intern for the Office of University Communications. She has made the dean’s list in all but one semester during her college career and is a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society.

— Jeffrey Martin ’04, ’05 (M.A.)

Office of University Communications

***

Summer Scholars Project Title: “Social Justice and Social Media: The Use of Climate Change Hashtags on Twitter and Instagram and the Communities behind Them”

Mentor: Bill Wolff, Ph.D., assistant professor of communications studies

Follow @sjuartssciences @haubschool on Twitter to learn about this year’s summer scholars. #SJUSSP