OGDEN, Utah – Four Weber State University students are spending 10 weeks of their summer vacation studying the effects of fatigue on performance in military, law enforcement and medical personnel.
The project is a continuation of the research conducted by associate psychology professor Lauren Fowler, students from around the country and several other faculty mentors since 2005. Fowler applied for and received a three-year extension from the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation to continue research on shift work and its effects on circadian rhythms – the body's daily cycles of eating, sleeping and other functions. Joan Thompson, associate professor of health promotion and human performance, is working with Fowler as a mentor to the students.
For the first time, this year's research will include studying the effects of shift work on medical personnel, while continuing to study the effects on law enforcement and military personnel. Fowler and her students will look at the physiological, stress and cognitive responses of more than 100 participants from the Utah Highway Patrol, Weber County Sheriff's Office, Hill Air Force Base, Ogden Regional Medical Center, McKay-Dee Hospital and the Ogden Police Department, as well as other organizations.
The researchers use their findings to learn what works in minimizing the effects of shift work on personnel and what organizations can do to improve. "It's important to give shift work personnel frequent breaks, access to food, social interaction in places like a break room or exercise room," Fowler said. "This helps mitigate shift work's effects."
Students from past years have received recognition at research conferences for their study of shift work, including two students who presented their findings at the national Undergraduate Research Posters on the Hill event held annually at the U.S. Capitol. A summary of this year's findings will be presented Aug. 2 at the WSU Ogden campus, and the community is invited to attend. For more information visit weber.edu/nsf-reu.
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