Benjamin Greenwood, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Research was the reason for the celebration in the Lawrence Street Center Terrace Room on Oct. 4, as the Office of Research Services held its annual awards luncheon honoring research award winners and grant recipients.

“The amazing research and creative work we’re celebrating here today demonstrates who we are at CU Denver and our role as a public research university,” said CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, who spoke at the event. “Thank you for what you do every day. It makes a huge difference not only to this community and institution but to society and the world.”

Professor Bob Damrauer, associate vice chancellor for research and creative activities, emceed the event, which drew about 60 faculty members for an hour and a half of eating, talking and sharing. Two faculty researchers gave presentations on their work and answered questions from the audience after.

Why would you put a cricket on a treadmill?

Cricket on a lab treadmill
Crickets get a workout in the lab as part of a study on the effects of exercise on anxiety and depression by Benjamin Greenwood, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, and John Swallow, PhD, professor and chair of integrative biology.

Assistant Professor of Psychology Benjamin Greenwood, PhD, gave a presentation on his collaborative study entitled “Your Brain on Exercise: How Physical Activity Improves Coping with Stress.” Greenwood, who received an internal grant for his project, is working to learn how exercise can reduce the incidence of stress-related mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

He and colleague John Swallow, PhD, professor and chair of integrative biology, utilize crickets and rats in their study. They exercise the creatures on tiny treadmills and then measure serotonin and dopamine levels in various parts of the brain that are involved with mood.

Although many think of serotonin as a chemical that makes us happy, there are actually different types of serotonin neurons, some of which promote stress, Greenwood said. He detailed the process through which he and his colleagues are studying neural circuits to draw connections between physical activity and mood – not just in animals but in people, too.

“We’re not rats,” he said. “For humans, we don’t know as much yet.”

What can American Indian tribal leaders teach us about government?

John Ronquillo, PhD, assistant professor of public affairs, is a seventh-generation native Arizonan with Native American ancestry. He grew up between two American Indian reservations. For these reasons, his scholarly work, which focuses on innovation in government and nonprofit organization, often ties in issues and themes of Native American people.

At the awards lunch, he talked about his new book, “Leading Native America: Exemplary Profiles in Public Service and Civil Society.” Due to be published soon, the book tells the stories of 20 people of Native American heritage who lead and manage nonprofit, private and governmental organizations.

John Ronquillo, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs
John Ronquillo, PhD, assistant professor of public affairs, talks about his new book on Native American leaders at the 2017 ORS Awards Luncheon.

“So much of Native Americans’ culture is their ability to focus on storytelling as part of their history,” Ronquillo said. With his work, he raises the question of why more tribal government practices are not implemented in the U.S. government.

His book recognizes individual Native Americans – such as Dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law Stacy Leeds, Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement leader Millani Trask, Lieutenant Governor of Alaska Byron Mallott and American Indian Museum Director Kevin Gover – whose powerful stories can contribute to studies of both American Indians and public policy.

“This is not the right community to treat as a collection of numbers,” Ronquillo said. “They’re grounded in story.”

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