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The Office of Undergraduate Research

Jason Passafiume

Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance and may decrease sleep need
Mentor: Dr. Bruce O'Hara

Jason's Beckman research proposal can be found at the bottom of the page.

Jason is a 2006 graduate of the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He graduated from the University of Louisville Medical School in 2010. He then worked as an intern at Baptist Health Systems in Birmingham, Alabama.  He is currently a Diagnostic Radiology Resident at the University of Cincinnati. 

Publications as a Beckman Scholar:

Behavioral and Brain Functions
Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance, and may decrease sleep need

Professional Conference Presentations as a Beckman Scholar:

2005 - Associated Professional Sleep Societies 19th Annual Meeting, Denver, CO

From Jason (Spring 2006):

I spent the first one and a half years of my undergraduate career here at UK switching majors and mastering what I like to call the art of “add/drop” (I was just as indecisive in finalizing a semester’s course schedule). In fact, I once changed majors three times in a span of two days. Finally, after meeting with professors in a variety of disciplines, including Chemistry, English, and Journalism, I decided that Biology was the major for me. I was especially interested in biomedical research and medicine.

Because I had taken only one collegiate science course, I apprehensively enrolled in organic chemistry and cell biology courses for the spring semester of my sophomore year. At the time, I felt that my performance in these science courses would indicate, and maybe even shape, my newly founded undergraduate career. However, it was Honors 202 that tested me the most, but in a different mannner than I expected.

Dr. David Wilke taught the course, titled The Contemporary World, which required a reading of A.H. Maslow’s The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. In this book, I discovered the possibility of a different kind of education, and my discovery began with a realization that the state of my education in the opinion of Maslow “summarizes the evils of extrinsically oriented education”. That is, the numbers, names, facts, and formulas that I had simply been learning and memorizing (and later usually forgetting) are, according to Maslow, “in a certain, very profound sense, expendable."

For me, the Honors Program lived up to its claim of promoting the development and use of creativity in a cross-disciplinary setting. Prior to becoming engaged in all the University had to offer, I had fallen into the minimalist undergraduate mindset. At the time, anything above or beyond the requirements of a course were, to me, superfluous. I wasn’t involved in anything outside the classroom. So, as you can probably imagine, Maslow’s idea of a “humanistic education” struck me as completely foreign and challenging but stuck with me. I recognized his idea as very utopian, but I bound myself to expanding my education and to obtaining as much of an “intrinsic education” as possible in the remaining two years of my undergraduate stay.

Such a goal led me to consider earning credit in BIO 395 Independent Research, and my advisor, Dr. Sheldon Steiner, suggested some biology faculty who were taking undergraduates in their labs. I studied the professors’ areas of research and decided to meet with Dr. Bruce O’Hara, whose specialty is sleep and circadian rhythms. I didn’t make an appointment; I just showed up at Dr. O’Hara’s office (definitely a testament to Dr. O’Hara’s availability to his students and his productively relaxed attitude so conducive for creativity in learning and research). After five minutes of speaking with Dr. O’Hara about his research, I was intimidated, felt under-qualified, and wanted to leave; after half an hour, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to do research in Dr. O’Hara’s lab. After about eight months in his lab, Dr. O’Hara brought to my attention the Beckman Scholarship for Undergraduate Research and encouraged me to submit an application, which was extensive and required a detailed project proposal, three faculty recommendations, and a personal statement concerning my future academic and career plans.

At some point during my first meeting with Dr. O’Hara (probably while he talked excitedly about his latest findings, because his passion and love of knowledge of all kinds is contagious), I was reminded of an essential component of Maslow’s education: “peak experiences”. I firmly believe that Dr. Arnold Beckman either was well-acquainted with Maslow’s work (or similar work), or independently discovered the same truths (brilliant minds think alike). Peak experiences form the foundation of the Beckman Scholars Program, and I’m convinced that Dr. Beckman had them in mind when he and Mabel decided to encourage scientific education both financially and ideologically. Dr. Beckman himself must have lived by and thrived on peak experiences, based on his numerous medical and otherwise scientific inventions. “The picture of the creative scientist must change, and is giving way to an understanding of the creative scientist, and the creative scientist lives by peak experiences,” writes Maslow. “He lives for moments of glory when a problem solves itself, when suddenly through a microscope he sees things in a very different way, the moments of revelation, of illumination, insight, understanding, ecstasy. These are vital for him.” I am especially grateful for the assistance that the Beckman Foundation has given to me in my goal of a more intrinsically-oriented education.


Research Proposal: