Students study the science behind stress

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


As American Thought and Culture students left their classroom in the Emitte Center on Nov. 8 and 12, many were asked to spit for a good cause.  

Several students in Assistant Professor of Science Sarah Comstock’s Advanced Physiology class are studying the effects of cortisol and how it relates to stress. They collected saliva samples from ATC students on Nov. 8 after a mid-term exam, and on Nov. 12, a regular class day. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body as a reaction to stress. The naturally occurring chemical helps the body with metabolism, but also helps the brain tap into its energy reserves when needed. 

Junior Hayden Herring held a sample in his latex-gloved hand and squinted at its contents before handing it back to an ATC student to get the proper saliva level needed for testing.

“We are testing their cortisol levels to see how stressed they are following an exam as opposed to a regular school day,” Herring said. “We want to see if there is a jump between the cortisol levels between day A and day B and whether or not there is a correlation between the two.”

The spit samples were collected in small test tubes and placed on ice before being transported to the lab. Students were also asked to fill out a short survey, which asked about their major, caffeine intake, the number of hours of sleep they had had the night before and how stressed they felt on the day the samples were collected.

The samples will be analyzed using a technique commonly used in hormone analysis called an Enzyme Immunoassay or EIA for short. This techniques is used in medical laboratories. Students in Comstock’s course are learning how to perform these types of tests and how to interpret the results. 

Students are learning the intricacies of human subjects testing and how important it is to keep individual results confidential, while presenting scientific findings to the general public,” Comstock said.

The results of these tests will be reported to the Corban community and local high school attendees on April 10 at the Annual Corban Science Symposium. This symposium features the research of many undergraduate students at Corban University. 

For more information about attending or sponsoring the symposium, contact Comstock at

  • Corban senior Emily Childers checks a saliva sample as part of an advanced physiology lab experiment.

  • Corban student Alex Rodriguez gives a sample of his saliva following an American Thought and Culture class on Nov. 12, 2013.

  • Senior Eli Driessen double checks a lab sample before putting it on ice.

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