Summer Sleep and Chronobiology Research Apprenticeship
The Summer Sleep and Chronobiology Research Apprenticeship is a unique undergraduate training program in the behavioral sciences at Brown University, which fosters behavioral science research education primarily for undergraduate students, but also for young pre- and post-doctoral scientists. The program provides undergraduate students an intensive research and academic experience in a human sleep and chronobiology research laboratory. It spans 13 weeks, including 2.5 weeks of intensive laboratory skills training, a week attending the annual meeting of the sleep professional societies (APSS), and a 10-week research apprenticeship in an ongoing study of sleep and circadian rhythms in adolescents. The program also supports one or two graduate student teaching assistants, providing role models to the apprentices, additional teaching experience, time for research projects, and full summer stipend. Each year the program concludes with a 2-day “retreat” colloquium. At this retreat, every apprentice is responsible for preparing and presenting a brief talk at the APSS meeting on a research theme they began to examine and researched through the summer.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) should be commended for funding the training program for 8 years. This brought an unprecedented level of fiscal stability, focus, and opportunity for young trainees. Unfortunately, the NIMH no longer supports undergraduate training programs. The Trans-NIH Sleep Research Coordinating Committee should be encouraged to continue to support similar undergraduate mentorship programs.
Because the program is largely designed for undergraduate students, its success is somewhat difficult to measure. Not every student has gone on to behavioral science research; some are in medicine, others in such disparate fields as law or business. Others, however, have followed the route to graduate study. One former student is working with a noted sleep and chronobiology scientist. Another student is performing research on sleep in birds. A third is a graduate student in neurobiology using electroencephalograms (EEG) and magnetic resource imaging (MRI) as methods to investigate the relationship between thalamic activation and cortical activation during sleep spindles. Another individual recently received a young investigator award from the European Sleep Research Society (2004, Prague ESRS meeting) for research on adolescent sleep patterns.