3-D Interactive Discovery Niche

Set in discrete spots throughout the Town Center, the technology-enhanced discovery niches are intended to attract the attention of casual visitors and serve as a destination for planned events. Faculty members, students and private sector collaborators are encouraged to submit ideas and content for the niches to ensure that the themes reflect emerging science.


Have you ever wondered why we (and almost all animals) sleep? In the wild, sleep could be dangerous—while sleeping, we are unconscious (and vulnerable), and sleep takes up a substantial fraction of our day. Not sleeping, however, is even more dangerous. When deprived of sleep, we suffer dangerous impairments of cognition, immunity and other biological functions.

Research in Jerry Yin’s laboratory in the genetics department explores the function of sleep by studying it in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). Because the genetics of the fruit fly are well understood, we can explore the biological changes that occur in sleeping flies and extrapolate that understanding to other animals. With these tools, the Yin laboratory attempts to answer questions such as:

  • Why do we sleep?
  • How do genes contribute to sleep regulation?
  • How does sleep affect other biological processes, such as learning and memory?

The current exhibit from the Yin lab kicks off a series of exhibits focused on research and fruit flies.