Brennan Falcy awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Brennan Falcy, an NSB graduate student in Ilia Karatsoreos’s lab, was awarded a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). The award aims to fund research that demonstrates rigorous intellectual merit as well as the potential for broader impacts for our society.

Brennan graduated with a B.S. in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2018. He came to UMass to work with Ilia Karatsoreos, where he could apply his neuroscience background to ask questions related to circadian biology and cellular metabolism. Brennan’s proposed research aims to study the dynamic interactions of astrocytes and neurons over the circadian period. Neurons exhibit 24-hour rhythmic fluctuations in excitability. Brennan will test the hypothesis that this phenomenon originates from rhythmic astrocytic input of redox-buffering metabolites. He will perform electrophysiology on cultured neurons and record the response of neurons to oxidative challenges in the presence and absence of astrocytes at different times of day. Brain activity – from the cellular level to the network level – is rhythmic across the 24-hour period. Uncovering how neuronal function is influenced, for example by astrocytes, is critical to understanding emergent functions such as cognition. Further, discovering how brain cell function changes over the circadian period has implications for time-of-day phenomena, such as sleep or susceptibility to injury. 

As a former undergraduate transfer student himself, he works to help demystify grad school to undergraduate transfer students. In his free time he enjoys running and exploring the outdoors of New England. On behalf of IONs and NSB, congratulations, Brennan!


Student Spotlight – Kyle Kainec

Kyle Kainec with his family

Kyle Kainec is a 5th year NSB student in the Somneuro Lab led by Dr. Rebecca Spencer. His research interests broadly include using advanced neuroimaging tools and analysis techniques to investigate the intersection of sleep and memory consolidation. In 2021, Kyle co-authored 4 publications, received a Graduate School Dissertation Research Grant, and nearly submitted the first manuscript of his dissertation work investigating sleep-dependent associated memory consolidation in young adults. Kyle’s first, first author publication, titled “Age-related changes in sleep-dependent novel word consolidation”, was recently published in Acta Psychologica and contributes growing evidence that encoding strength is crucially important to understand the expression of sleep-dependent benefits in older adults. In the coming year, he looks forward to completing his dissertation work, expanding his industry involvement, and preparing for what is next. On behalf of the NSB community, congratulations to Kyle!

Publication: Kainec, K. A., Paracha, A. W., Ali, S., Bussa, R., Mantua, J., & Spencer, R. (2022). Age-related changes in sleep-dependent novel word consolidation. Acta psychologica, 222, 103478.