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Friday, June 10, 2022

Professor of Biology Aaron Schirmer has been honored with Northeastern Illinois University’s 2022 Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor award.

The late Bernard J. Brommel, Professor Emeritus, established the award to be given annually to the tenured or tenure-track member of the Northeastern faculty who best demonstrates excellence in research and scholarship.

Schirmer, who’s been teaching at Northeastern for nearly 14 years, centers his research primarily on the study of circadian rhythms and the effect that these rhythms have on animal and human behavior and physiology. Circadian rhythms are daily oscillations that serve to coordinate an organism and its external environment, these include phenomena such as sleep-wake cycles, oscillations in core body temperature, and hormone cycling. Publications include “Mapping behaviorally relevant light pollution levels to improve urban habitat planning,” “Evidence for premature aging in a Drosophila model of Werner syndrome,” and “3.4 million real-world learning management system logins reveal the majority of students experience social jet lag correlated with decreased performance.” Much of his research has been co-authored with students in his research lab at Northeastern.

“Interacting with students is the best part of my day,” Schirmer said. “Students have been a critical part of my research, and my laboratory's achievements would not have been possible without all of my amazing research students. My biggest reward for our research efforts is the excitement that my students experience when they earn a positive lab grade, are accepted to their graduate program of choice, or when they see all of their hard work culminate in a publication. While Northeastern is known primarily as a teaching institution, there is really impressive research being done here as well. I hope we can continue to expand this aspect of our scholarship and find novel ways to showcase it to our community.”

Schirmer said the diversity of Northeastern’s student body is an invaluable component of his research.

“NEIU’s student body is so diverse in every way it can be—age, ethnicity, identity, religion, race, and every way you can define it,” Schirmer said. “Students are bringing all of these unique perspectives to the Department of Biology and their insights are so unique. They push my research projects forward and challenge me to look at the research in different ways.” 

Of this year’s nominees, the committee selected three finalists after careful consideration of a bibliography of their works and nomination letters submitted by their colleagues. The finalists were Schirmer, Christina Bueno of the Department of History and Dilek Yunlu of Department of Marketing and Management. 

The committee and a group of external peer reviewers evaluated the finalists’ scholarly research and creative works. The committee then recommended Professor Aaron Schirmer as this year’s recipient of the award, which will be formally presented at the Faculty Institute in August. 

As the Brommel Distinguished Research Professor, Dr. Schirmer will receive a cash award of $5,000. He will make a presentation about his research and creative activities to the Northeastern community during the Fall 2022 semester.

“My goal has been to be a professor at a primarily undergraduate, teaching-focused institution, and Northeastern has given me the opportunity to achieve that goal,” Schirmer said. “In turn, I have worked to create a lab that is student-centered and engages students in every step of the research process. I am humbled to receive this award, and be among the ranks of all of the incredible professors who were previously named Brommel Distinguished Research Professors. I absolutely could not have earned this honor without the hard work of my students and the robust collaborations with my colleagues at NEIU, Northwestern University, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Lafayette University, and the University of California San Diego. I feel fortunate to be part of a department, college, and university that are incredibly  supportive and have made this work and receiving this award possible.” 

Photo of Aaron Schirmer smiling, wearing a blue and white checkered shirt against a gray background
Aaron Schirmer