Thursday, March 13, 2014

Whitworth professor receives grant to further his study of sleep


Michael Rempe, Whitworth assistant professor of math and computer science, recently received a $60,886 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This grant will be used toward Rempe’s collaborative project with Jonathan Wisor, an associate professor at Washington State University. Their project focuses on the effects of chronic methamphetamine use upon sleep.

Rempe explains that when healthy individuals sleep, their brains use less glucose than they do during periods of wakefulness. In contrast, the brains of chronic meth users in withdrawal use an excessive amount of glucose during sleep. “The overall goal of our study is to understand the neurobiological basis for this phenomenon,” Rempe says.

Rempe will construct mathematical models of the use of glucose in the brain, while Wisor will conduct experiments. The two faculty have been working together since 2010, when they crossed paths thanks to an introduction from Kamesh Sankaran, Whitworth professor of physics.

Rempe first encountered the sleep-research community when he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State University. At the time, one of his projects involved developing and analyzing a mathematical model of sleep in the human brain. Rempe says that he continues to research this field because of the fascinating questions it raises.

When asked what his favorite aspect of teaching at Whitworth is, Rempe says, “The students. I’m continually impressed by our students’ academic enthusiasm, their positive attitudes and their respectfulness toward faculty. They’re why I'm here.”

Rempe joined the Whitworth faculty in 2009 and specializes in mathematical models of neural systems, including those of sleep. In March 2013, Rempe, along with Whitworth Associate Professor of Psychology Noel Wescombe, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Daman Hagerott and Head Women’s Soccer Coach Jael Hagerott, received STEM grants for their project “Sleep, Performance and Mood.”

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.