Dr. David Earnest,
is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. He obtained his graduate degrees from Northwestern University, receiving his Master of Science degree in 1979 and his doctoral degree in 1984. Dr. Earnest is also an executive member of the Texas A&M University Center for Biological Clocks Research. His research interests are focused on the neurobiology of biological clocks that regulate circadian rhythms in sleep and other body processes. His research uses multidisciplinary approaches to study how pathologies and environmental disturbances in the regulation of circadian rhythms are linked to various human health disorders including obesity and diabetes, increased cancer risk, cardiovascular disease and stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), sleep-wake cycle disturbances and depression.
What got you so interested in Circadian Clocks?
When I was young, I was always curious about how watches or clocks kept time. So after I received a kid’s watch as a Christmas gift, I took this curiosity to the next level and took it apart to determine how it “worked”. While this characteristic has served me well as a researcher, it did not endear me to my family at the time because I was not able to reassemble the watch to its original functional state.
What is the broader significance of your research?
Circadian rhythm disruption or misalignment with external cycles has been consistently linked with rotating shift work schedules but is more prevalent in our modern world due social and workplace influences that commonly impose highly irregular schedules on our sleep-wake patterns, mealtimes and other health-related processes (i.e., “social jet lag”). This dysregulation of circadian rhythms of sleep and other body processes have been linked to cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease as well as related risk factors including metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes and inflammation.
What is on your bookshelf?
Lots of Kurt Vonnegut novels.
Describe someone outside your field of interest who inspires you and why?
Tom Brady, because of his dedication to excellence and ability to achieve even in the face of adversity.
What do you think are your greatest strengths as an instructor?
Patience, understanding and remembering how I wanted to be treated (or not treated) as a student.
What characteristics do you prize most in a colleague?
Candor, altruistic, receptive to collaborations
Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
Development of immortalized SCN cell lines and their application in our co-culture model to study the mammalian circadian pacemaker mechanism and diffusible factors that coordinate circadian rhythms in other tissues and cells.
What projects are you currently working on?
Because alterations of 24-hour or circadian rhythms imposed by our everyday irregular work and/or social environments have been linked to vascular disease, current research projects in my lab examine sex differences in the extent to which shift-work schedules exacerbate brain injury and functional deficits caused by ischemic stroke.
Give us 5 adjectives that describe you as a scientist.
Dedicated, Enthusiastic, Focused, Persistent, Inquisitive