In this photo, Matt Butler, principal investigator in the Clock Physiology laboratory, is on his way home at 9am to catch up on sleep after a 24 hour experiment. Work in the Butler Lab is focused on understanding how shift work can lead to health impairments, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. To study this, it is essential to be able to control the environment, especially the timing of light and food, and then to measure the outcomes at specific times of day, often in the middle of the night.
The irony certainly isn’t lost on them: “Yes, one of the problems of studying shift work is that we have to expose ourselves to the same types of stresses.” One way in which the lab members cope is by trying to stay caught up on sleep (Matt travels with his pillow in order to be able to sleep better on a cot in the office), and to use flexible scheduling to minimize disruptions. “The hours can be long, so we try to set the experiments such that lab members can recover after overnights, or have the day off prior if an experiment will begin in the evening,” says Matt.
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Submitted by: Matt Butler, Ph.D., Assistant Scientist