Staff Spotlight: Aanu Ayeni

In our Staff Spotlight posts we feature an Institute staff member and share with the community a behind-the-scenes look to learn more about their research areas, career path and goals, but most importantly recognize their efforts. For our October Staff Spotlight, we interviewed Aanu Ayeni, a Research Associate in Dr. Nicole Bowles Lab.

Tell us more about yourself (career path, goals, anything you want us to know, etc.)

“My career path has not been straightforward. I have a bachelors in Pharmacy. I then decided after working for about 4 years with my degree, to go back to school for a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) in Epidemiology. My goal after graduating from my M.P.H. program was to apply to a Ph.D. program in pharmacology within 2-3 years of graduating. I thought I would need the time to better understand my career path forward and direction for the next phase of my career considering the level of commitment a Ph.D. requires.

My current role as a Research Associate at the Institute was the exact type of experience I sought to spend my 2-3 years on. I moved to Portland after graduating so naturally, OHSU was at the top of my list when applying for jobs. I searched the OHSU careers page in hopes of finding a research position that was the right match for my needs at the time, so I was happy to have come across the Institute’s job opportunities. The Institute’s research areas interested me, specifically research done by the Bowles lab. At the time I did not have any experience in sleep research, so I was excited to gain that experience. Working in the Bowles lab, within the CPCP (Clinical Physiology and Chronobiology Program) has made me interested in learning about the influence of circadian rhythms on medication disposition, efficacy and toxicity and as a result, I would like to pursue a Ph.D. in chrono pharmacology. I think that by applying what we know about circadian rhythms to therapy in clinical practice, we’d be better able to optimize therapeutic outcomes.

What current research projects are you working on? 

“I currently support Dr. Bowles’ Shift Work in Firefighters (SWIFT) study in the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center where we examine the impact of shift schedules on markers of cardiovascular disease, markers of safety/vigilance, and mechanisms that underly these associations including stress at work and at home, and recovery strategies such as sleep. We are examining the impact of the 24/48 (24 hours on and 48 hours off shift) versus the 1/3/2/3 (one day on, 3 days off, 2 days on, and 3 days off shift) on firefighters’ health, safety and well-being.

The Portland Fire and Rescue Bureau is currently undergoing a 1 year trial period of the new schedule (1/3/2/3) starting March 2, 2022. Before March 2, they operated on the 24/48 schedule. This switch provided an opportunity to examine the impact of both schedules on their health and so we are prospectively evaluating this impact using the transition from the 24/48 schedule to the 1/3/2/3 schedule We expect that the new— 1/3/2/3 – schedule would improve rest and recovery time, as well as allow them to spend more time at home with family and friends. The study started in January this year and we are hoping the results of the study upon completion in December, would be helpful first to the PF&R Bureau and the Portland Firefighters Association (PFFA), such that they are able to make evidence-based decisions when it comes to schedule selection moving forward. We also hope that the results from this study can make a broader impact and set a precedent for work schedules selection for other firefighting organizations/departments

I am the project coordinator on the SWIFT study: Shiftwork in Firefighters study. I support data collection and management, oversee and manage research equipment, materials and logistics, and I build and maintain relationships with research collaborators (e.g., Portland Fire and Rescue) including communicating and interacting face-to-face with Firefighters. Additionally, I carry out administrative tasks as needed.”

What do you like most about working for OHSU/Institute/occupational health research?

“What I like most about working at the Institute is the translational nature of the research. There is nothing more rewarding than transforming results from research into interventions that impact people’s everyday lives and I think it’s cool that I get to work at an important stage of the research to practice/implementation pipeline.

Next, I love that I get to work closely with world-renowned experts in the field. There is so much to learn at the Institute and I am grateful that the Institute has a culture that encourages learning and fosters growth. I am grateful for the opportunity to be mentored by Dr. Nicole Bowles, and to work alongside an amazing team of people. I have grown so much as a researcher since I started working here and it’s exciting to know that there is still so much more to learn.”

What are your favorite hobbies outside of work? Home-life is very important to our health and well-being and is interconnected to our work-life

“My hobbies are season-dependent. I love to be outdoors, specifically around water. I find oceans, lakes,  waterfalls, and being in the sun very calming and therapeutic. Back when I lived in Minnesota, before moving to Oregon, my favorite thing to do was go kayaking on Lake Bde Maka Ska, the largest lake in Minneapolis, Minnesota, or on some of the other lakes in the twin cities area. Minnesota is known as the “land of 10,000 lakes.” I never ran out of lakes to explore. I am excited to explore lakes here in Oregon, such as the ones around Mount Hood like Trillium Lake. Last summer, I visited Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon and I was happy to go out on the day that I did because that day had the best weather for a beach day.”

Learn more about the SWIFT: Shiftwork in Firefighters study and the Nicole Bowles lab.  Thank you Aanu for sharing your story and research with us.

Read more staff spotlights here:

Sean Rice

Jackie Boyd

Sami Moellmer

Sam Greenspan

Ivana De Anda

Our team is hiring! We have faculty, research and outreach staff positions open at Institute. Visit our current job openings on the OHSU careers page.