Alice A. Han

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Jonathan W. Boyd

Committee Member

Harry Finklea

Committee Member

John B. Mertz

Committee Member

Stephen J. Valentine

Committee Member

James P. O'Callaghan


The impact that a stressor has on a living system, whether it is on a cellular, organ, or even a whole organism level, can affect the overall health of the system. Monitoring the biochemical response resulting from a stressful experience offers insight into the numerous potential outcomes ranging on the spectrum of survival and death. Accessing this information not only provides a heightened understanding of the biochemical adaptions that occur, but also allows for the development of prediction models (to assess prospective influences of the stressor) or potential therapeutic treatments (to alleviate adverse effects) using measurable, quantifiable, and comparable metrics. It is, however, a continuing effort to decipher the results as these detected responses can be complex, and furthermore extremely context specific. Biochemical patterns can be biased by the many discrepancies in the types, degrees, and frequencies of stressors, time points at which the responses are measured, the biological matrix that is assessed, and even the selected cohort of targets. The work of this dissertation observed intracellular (i.e. protein expression, phosphorylation modifications), extracellular (i.e. cytokine), and hormonal (cortisol, ACTH) responses, following exposures to a variety of physical, social, and environmental stressors. A series of statistical treatments, including network centrality parameter analyses, were implemented to dissect these complex datasets. The findings suggested that the changes in the measured biochemical responses - triggered by certain stressors - could be distinguished among different degrees of experienced stress, as well as different time points of measurement. The overarching objective of this research and of all future related research is to bring insight into the complex biological response system and demonstrate how particular stressors can prompt discrete trends. Overall, there appears to be potential value in monitoring biochemical alterations to describe the stress response.