Biology Professor Matt Carter Wins NSF CAREER Award

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., April 24, 2017—Matt Carter, assistant professor of biology at Williams College, has been awarded a prestigious CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The five-year, $586,000 grant, awarded to junior faculty, will support Carter’s research into sleep and wakefulness.

“I am so thrilled to receive the CAREER award. This grant will create so many great research opportunities with students over the next several years,” Carter said. “The NSF recognizes the high quality of the preliminary work that Williams students have already performed in my lab. All of the preliminary data in this proposal came from the excellent students who have worked alongside me over the past few years.”

The CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through research, education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. The reviewing, award, and selection process is one of the most competitive within the NSF.

Carter’s research project, titled Bidirectional Control of Sleep and Wakefulness by the Hypothalamic Arcuate Nucleus, studies two populations of neurons to better understand mammalian sleep. Preliminary evidence from his lab shows that one population of neurons maintains sleep while the other promotes wakefulness. His research project is using cutting-edge optogenetic and pharmacogenetic methods in conjunction with electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioral analyses in mice to test the necessity and sufficiency of these neurons in promoting sleep or wakefulness.
“The purpose of this grant is to study how the parts of the brain that regulate hunger also influence sleep and wakefulness,” Carter said. “Everyone has occasionally experienced fatigue after eating a large meal, and it’s harder to fall asleep when you are hungry. Over the next several years, my students and I will investigate how brain food intake systems interact with other parts of the brain to influence the quantity and quality of sleep.”

The project will provide research experience and laboratory training to several Williams students. Additionally, Carter will develop a course on the science of sleep. The course will use active learning strategies to provide a better understanding of sleep science to undergraduates, including a lab module based on his research. Carter’s students will also partner with the Center for Learning in Action at Williams to design and present seminars about sleep to local communities.

“The NSF grant will also provide opportunities to educate the campus and community about the science of sleep,” Carter said. “Many people on college campuses are extremely sleep deprived, and Williams is no exception. This grant will provide excellent opportunities for students and community members to learn about what happens in the brain and body during sleep, and how to improve sleep hygiene on a daily basis.”

“CAREER awards are extremely competitive and having Matt receive one is exciting for our students, the department and the college,” said Washington Gladden 1859 Professor of Biology Joan Edwards, chair of the biology department. “It is a testament to the high quality of scientific research done by Matt and his students at Williams.”

Carter, who has taught at Williams since 2013, holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Whitman College.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.


Published April 24, 2017