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BioClock Studio: Integrating Circadian Rhythms Research, Education, and Outreach to Change the Landscape of Public Health Policy

Research Summary

The BioClock Studio is an innovative course involving undergraduate students from diverse disciplines in a collaborative project in circadian biology that will develop their scientific and communication skills while producing educational materials for multiple audiences.

The BioClock Studio is an innovative course concept in which a team of undergraduate students, drawn from diverse disciplines, will work collaboratively to develop their scientific and communication skills and produce innovative educational materials. The products of the BioClock Studio will be used to enhance scientific understanding within and among different audiences, including the general public, researchers, and the students' academic peers.

The project centers on the field of circadian biology, the study of internal 24-hour biological clocks, and leverages a strong circadian research center and an existing 300-student course, "Circadian Rhythms--Biological Clocks." The 20-student BioClock Studio will engage select students from this large class with other students who study art, communication, computer science, journalism, and education, for the purpose of developing a suite of educational materials that communicate scientific knowledge to diverse audiences.

BioClock Studio students will train intensively in writing and in using a variety of media; develop critical thinking, rhetorical, and technical skills; and experience the synergy that emerges when students from a variety of disciplines work collaboratively. As a first goal, the BioClock Studio will create instructional materials for the "Circadian Rhythms--Biological Clocks" course. Products will include demonstration videos, original visuals, text that is informed by primary sources but focused appropriately for a non-specialist audience, and interactive exercises that make abstract concepts more understandable.

The BioClock Studio will make the activities of more than two dozen research labs more accessible to the larger class of students through production of videos that demonstrate how circadian data are collected for different kinds of organisms--including humans, mice, plants, fungi, tissue culture cells, and cyanobacteria--and different kinds of biological rhythms, including rhythms in behavior, body temperature, protein levels, and gene expression. Graduate and postdoctoral trainees from circadian rhythms laboratories will serve as mentors, gaining teaching experience as they guide studio students to develop educational content.

As a longer-term goal, the BioClock Studio will challenge students to translate and communicate research findings to the public to promote more widespread awareness of the importance of circadian rhythms for daily life, work, and health. Research has shown that the timing of biological processes in humans and in most other organisms is so extensive and significant that essentially all aspects of human enterprise--behavior, health, agriculture, environment, industry--are affected by circadian clocks. As technological advances have enabled scientists to look more holistically at biological systems, the results are revealing previously unrecognized biological oscillations that greatly affect the outcomes of experiments and medical interventions. Despite clear research demonstrating the negative health effects of circadian disruption, the public has little understanding of circadian rhythms and biological clocks beyond the recognition of jetlag as a travel annoyance. Even physicians receive little training in the importance of circadian rhythms in medical care, such as the potential benefits of delivering therapies at times of day when they are more effective and have fewer side effects.

BioClock Studio students will work closely with researchers in workshop, conference, and interview settings to bridge the communication gap between scientists and the public. As knowledge of circadian biology is growing among the research community, the BioClock Studio will create outreach materials to raise awareness among many constituencies of the public. At the same time, it will train a new generation of communicators in skills that will enable them to effectively convey important scientific knowledge.

As of October 28, 2014

Scientist Profile

HHMI Professor
University of California, San Diego
Microbiology

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