If you’re a university faculty member, one of the benefits of being good at your work is that people ask you to visit them and give presentations. Many Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine faculty members are asked to do outside speaking engagements, sometimes overseas. For some it has become routine, for others, it’s still a big deal.
For Department of Biomedical Sciences Chair and Professor Marcos Frank, who has built a good name for himself in the world sleep research community, it’s a little of both. Frank frequently receives speaking invitations, but his recent three-lecture tour in Europe was unusual.
One of his stops was at the annual Congress of the European Sleep Research Society in Bologna, Italy, where he says he spoke about how two of the body’s major internal mechanisms, our circadian rhythms and the sleep/wake cycle, develop. He says his talk focused on work he started 20 years ago, but on which he only recently completed his analysis.
That talk was followed by a stop in Bergen, Norway for a sleep research workshop organized by Dr. Janne Grønli, a College of Medicine visiting professor who recently returned to her home university in Bergen. Frank says he talked about some new ideas he’s been thinking through, related to trying to discover which body functions are controlled by the body’s circadian rhythms and which are controlled by the sleep/wake cycle.
But it was a speaking engagement in Oxford, England that was one of the highlights of his trip.
First, there’s the prestige of speaking at Oxford, one of the world’s great universities. Then there was the audience. It wasn’t just sleep researchers; it was a meeting of a broad group of neuroscientists. Frank spoke about the role of sleep, especially rapid-eye movement, or REM, sleep, in developing the brain’s ability to change, also known as plasticity. He welcomed the opportunity to interact with people who don’t study sleep for a living but who understand its vital role in how the body functions.
“It’s nice to be recognized intellectually by people who are outside of your own specialty,” he said.
And he says it’s nice to work in a field that’s getting more attention.
“If you look in the top neuroscience journals such as Science or Nature, you see so many more papers related to sleep now than you did even 10 years ago,” he said.
With Oxford and other heavyweight institutions such as Harvard and Stanford crossed off of his bucket list, here’s hoping Frank gets an invitation to speak at Cambridge sometime soon.