Kathyani ParasramKathyani Parasram presents her research at McGill University in Montreal.

UWindsor researcher takes first-place award at chronobiology meeting

A University of Windsor researcher has received international recognition for her presentation on chronobiology.

Kathyani Parasram, a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences, was awarded first place for her talk “Green Guts: Development of the Circadian Clock in the Drosophila Intestine” at the Canadian Society for Chronobiology Meeting, held at McGill University, May 26 to 28.

The biennial conference included researchers from Canada, Europe, and Japan, with more than 100 graduate student and postdoc trainees presenting their work.

Her supervisor Phillip Karpowicz, assistant professor and chair of the biology graduate program, says this was a very prestigious award for Parasram.

“It was a great conference with many research groups from major scientific and medical insitutions,” says Dr. Karpowicz. “She did a terrific job competing with students from all over Canada and the USA.”

Parasram says the chance to discuss her work with some of the leaders in the field a great experience.

“Our research provides insight into the role of the environment in early development of circadian rhythms,” she says. “I’m very happy that this exciting work has been recognized, and that I was able to attend such an important meeting to share it.”

Chronobiology is the study of biological timing. Circadian rhythms are caused by an internal biological clock running throughout an organism’s cells at daily intervals, and determine sleep/wake cycles, reproductive and hormonal rhythms, as well as other changes in all living things.

The cellular and biochemical nature on the development of these rhythms in organisms is not understood. Parasram says she has found that the genes controlling these are absent until an animal starts to move around the world.

“Signals from the environment tend to act as cues to an animal,” says Parasram. “This brings timing to a system of genes inside the body known as the circadian clock. The genes themselves are not activated in the body until just before environmental exposure begins. This kick starts the daily process, which then continues throughout life.”

In addition to her presentation prize, Parasram also was awarded a travel prize to attend the meeting, and Karpowicz received the 2019 Junior Investigator Award from the Society for Chronobiology for his contributions to the field in Canada.

Both researchers are part of the Karpowicz Lab. Located in the Essex CORe, members use a variety of animal and tissue culture models to study the circadian rhythms in health and disease.

—Darko Milenkovic