Published: May 7, 2024

College’s outstanding undergraduate of spring 2024 focused his honors thesis on sex-based differences in sleep

As an undergraduate researcher, Grant Mannino has helped advance scientific understanding of sleep, perhaps to the detriment of his own volume of sleep.

Mannino is graduating this week with a double major in psychology and neuroscience, summa cum laude. He has been designated as the spring 2024 outstanding undergraduate of the College of Arts and Sciences.

While pursuing his degree, he has contributed more than 1,500 hours of undergraduate research, co-authored two peer-reviewed manuscripts, is first author of a manuscript under review, and has contributed to four other manuscripts and a book chapter.

Mannino, who went to high school in the Denver metro area, recently answered five questions from this magazine. Those queries and his responses appear below:

Question: If you were to briefly summarize the results of your honors thesis to a lay audience, what would you say?

Glen Krutz and Grant Mannino

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Glen Krutz (left) talks with Grant Mannino, the college's spring 2024 outstanding graduate, about his research and future plans. (Photo: Kylie Clarke)

Mannino: Essentially, sleep is being increasingly recognized as an important mediator of disease and has thus gained more attention as an outcome measure in studies of various subdisciplines of biomedical research (e.g., neuroscience). In my thesis, I found significant biological sex differences in the sleep of male and female mice (267 total) commonly used in research.

Specifically, female mice slept less than their male counterparts. Historically, however, female animals are underrepresented in biomedical research and underlying sex differences—as previously described—are rarely taken into account in data analyses.

In accordance with the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) initiative to improve rigor and reproducibility in biomedical research, I used these data to demonstrate that investigators should account for underlying sex differences when interpreting sleep in the context of disease models.

Question: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in science?

Mannino: I’ve always had some natural interest in medicine but didn’t realize that I wanted to pursue a career in science until I joined a laboratory here at CU. Biomedical research provides this unique intersection between medicine and preclinical research that I really enjoy.

Simply spending as much time as I have in my lab has just solidified my desire to pursue a career in science.

Question: I understand that you mentor other undergraduate students; what motivates you to do this, and how do you find the time?

Mannino: I’ve had the opportunity to work in a big lab that often hosts students from summer programs and internships from various institutions/backgrounds. Once I had established proficiency in certain research techniques, I sought to serve as a peer mentor for newer/rotating students with the goal of helping them with their projects while building relationships and enriching their experience in the lab.

Question: You are hoping to pursue an MD/PhD; what is your hope for your career beyond that?

Mannino: Up to this point, I’ve largely been on the discovery side of research, where I’ve been interpreting results and disseminating findings. Whether I end up going the MD/PhD route or just doing a PhD, I’d definitely love to end up more on the implementation side of research. This way, I could potentially see some of the novel interventions/strategies that I’m familiar with actually improve the life of patients.

Question: Is there anything about your time at CU Boulder that was especially meaningful to you?

Mannino: The relationships I’ve been able to develop at CU have been (by far) the most meaningful to me. I feel extremely lucky to have spent the past few years working for two professors (Dr. Rachel Rowe and Dr. Mark Opp) who are both amazing people, mentors and scientists.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to build relationships across different areas of the same community with my friends, classmates, research colleagues and professors. I think that the culmination of all these relationships has shaped my undergraduate experience in the most meaningful way.

Top image: College of Arts and Sciences Dean Glen Krutz and Grant Mannino (Photo: Kylie Clarke)

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