Southeast Missouri State University alumna Eliza Grove of Dix, Illinois, works as a consultant with Lighting Science Group in Satellite Beach, Florida. Her clients include the Los Angeles Dodgers and, most recently, the U.S. Olympic team as it traveled to Sochi for the Winter Olympics.
The company uses new technology to manipulate light wavelengths to affect the photoreceptors of people’s eyes to shift their body clock to their optimal time, depending on their goals, Eliza said.
“I’ve always been a big sports and fitness fan, so I jumped at the opportunity to start researching how light affects athletic performance. Getting to work with sleep specialists and professional sports teams has just been an added bonus,” Eliza says.
Eliza is a research analyst in the Biological Lighting Division at Lighting Science Group. She specifies prototypes and products within her division, and coordinates research projects from concept to install, including data collection and analysis.
Eliza says there is a photoreceptor in people’s eyes that sees very specific wavelengths of light, telling the brain when it is daytime and when it is not. This influences people’s circadian rhythms throughout the day, which affects a lot of different body functions like hormone production, digestion, and sleep. In addition, almost every function has its own daily clock: most people have higher cognition skills in the morning, better athletic performance in the afternoon and better cancer immunity at night.
Using new technology, Lighting Science Group helped the Dodgers and the U.S. Olympic team as they traveled long distances to their competitions.
The Dodgers needed help adjusting their schedule for a 14-hour flight across the world to play a game starting at 1 a.m. in Australia. Her company’s goal was not only to mitigate their jet lag, but also shift them to a time when they would be at their peak athletic performance, according to Eliza.
The company worked with the athletes in Arizona during spring training. She says it was important to baseline their sleeping habits, identify the team’s night owls and early birds, and gather individual player data. The process also involved educating the players on how light affects both their sleep habits and their athletic performance.
“A lot of the players caught on right away, because they had already noticed a big change in how they feel during a night game versus a day game,” Eliza says.
From there, they tried to implement lighting and sleep schedules for them to follow in the days leading up to their trip.
“The schedule was designed to acclimate them to Australian time before their trip down-under. We spent those days in the clubhouse handing out test lights for home use, gathering data, consulting with players and addressing any individual issues,” Eliza says. “When the players left for Australia, we had equipped the plane and each hotel room with lights and a lighting protocol. They won all three games that they played: one exhibition game vs. the Australia National Team, and two regular season games vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“My favorite part was getting to interact with all of the players, and of course meeting Don Mattingly. All of the players and staff were so cool and down to earth; it was a great experience and a really interesting peek into the life of a MLB (Major League Baseball) player,” she says.
Eliza and her company completed a similar project with the U.S. ski and snowboard team when traveling to Sochi during the Winter Olympics.
Eliza says the U.S. ski and snowboard team wanted help with mitigating jet lag during their trip to Sochi. They equipped them with a lighting and sleep schedule, lights for their room, and filtered goggles to wear so that sunlight would not affect her company’s lighting protocol, she said.
Eliza strives to continue to raise awareness of the possibilities of Human-Centric lighting.
“Human-Centric (Circadian) lighting is going to be a very big part of future lighting systems. It has a real effect on everything from dementia and insomnia to obesity and diabetes. So getting this technology into mainstream medical practice is the main goal. But until that adoption rate picks up, working with athletes and high-profile clients is very exciting as well.”
When she isn’t working, she enjoys sports and going to the beach. She says one of the best benefits of living in Florida is the close proximity to MLB spring training sites and getting to see teams play in small stadiums.
Eliza earned a Bachelor of Science with triple majors in applied mathematics, applied physics engineering, and general physics from Southeast. She says she chose Southeast because of its location and variety of degree offerings, which allowed her to interact people who had varied interests, as well as its small class sizes.
“This gave me a lot of one-on-one time with professors, and created a special bond between the students and faculty,” she says.
To Southeast students, she offers some advice.
“I think college teaches you how to learn. You may not remember every formula or equation, but as long as you can quickly learn a new skill or pick back up an old one, you will be of value,” Eliza says.