Sleep re­search reaps hon­our

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES PAUL

Cam­borne-based Pro­fes­sor Philippa Gan­der has been made a Mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit in the Queen’s Birth­day Hon­ours.

The hon­our recog­nises her more than 35-year ca­reer in re­search­ing the ef­fects of sleep, the cir­ca­dian body clock, and their im­pli­ca­tions for health and safety.

Gan­der has al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the brain’s timer and its role in re­leas­ing mela­tonin at night to help us feel drowsy and cor­ti­sol to help us rise with the sun.

Her re­search into the in­ter­nal time-keeping sys­tem that keeps peo­ple func­tion­ing in step with the day/night cy­cle, known as the cir­ca­dian clock, is in­creas­ingly more rel­e­vant with to­day’s tech­nol­ogy.

‘‘The cir­ca­dian body clock is light sen­si­tive, and par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive to the blue light that is found in the tech­nolo­gies peo­ple are us­ing late at night,’’ she said.

‘‘This light de­lays the body clock, mak­ing it harder to go to sleep and harder to get up in the morn­ing. So, we have to use this new sci­ence to come up with bet­ter so­lu­tions.’’

Af­ter com­plet­ing her doc­tor­ate at Auck­land Uni­ver­sity, she re­ceived a Ful­bright award in 1980 to study at Har­vard Med­i­cal School in Bos­ton, Amer­ica.

NASA re­cruited her to work in their Ames Re­search Cen­tre in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia, in 1983 where she fo­cused on cir­ca­dian phys­i­ol­ogy, sleep, fa­tigue and their con­se­quences for aviation safety and ex­plo­ration of the so­lar sys­tem.

A fel­low­ship from the Health Re­search Coun­cil of NZ en­abled her to re­turn home and sub­se­quently es­tab­lish the Sleep/Wake Re­search Cen­tre, now at Massey Uni­ver­sity in Welling­ton.

In 2009 she was elected to the Fel­low­ship of the Royal So­ci­ety of New Zealand for her in­no­va­tive re­search on the sci­ence of sleep and fa­tigue risk man­age­ment.

‘‘My work, ca­reer and re­search is about ser­vice to the New Zealand com­mu­nity, and that’s very pre­cious to me. So, I am hon­oured, very much so, to have been made a mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit.’’

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