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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

Warm weather, sunlight impacting how students prep for finals

Students+study+outside+on+Soldiers+and+Sailors+Lawn+in+April.
Amber Farabaugh | Staff Photographer
Students study outside on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn in April.

For a large portion of the school year, the weather in Pittsburgh is often moody. One day flurries of snow were accumulating in the quad, and the next day, the Cathedral basked in the 60-degree sunshine. 

According to psychology professor Dr. Diana Leyva, the type of weather a place is experiencing has a significant impact on students’ work rates. 

“We know that there is a positive association between the temperature and mood,” Leyva said. “The weather affects your mood, your sleep, your diet, your energy levels and how willing you are to socialize, too.”

As Pitt students prepare themselves for the last stretch of exams, the surrounding weather greatly influences how students work, feel and react to a time filled with studying, stress and test-taking. 

When sunlight hits a person’s eyes, specifically the retina, their brains cue the release of a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls our mood. This key piece of biology reveals an obvious connection between the weather and peoples’ mood. 

Leyva emphasized how there are psychological studies that examine this phenomenon.

“They [psychologists] have actually looked at college students and they have seen that changes in seasons affect their productivity and mood,” Leyva said. “When it is cold, our own body sends the signal of hibernation. Cold weather means less sunlight — it tells your brain it’s time to rest. Warmer weather sends a signal to get active, to move around, to do things — it’s telling your brain it’s time to work or to wake up.”

Still, if it gets too hot, students are also likely to have lower motivation. 

“There are studies that actually show that it is around 72 Fahrenheit,” Leyva reported. “When it becomes too hot, you feel you have no energy and you want to rest. It is not a perfect correlation.” 

As the weather gets nicer, people often become happier and more motivated. However, students like Krystal Tran might find themselves distracted from studying due to the weather. 

“I can’t be bothered to do my problem sets when all I want to do is sit outside,” Tran, a first-year biological sciences student, said.

First-year pharmaceutical science major Kim Huynh gave testimony to her behavior in tandem with the weather as well. Born and raised in Irvine, California, Huynh said she didn’t even own a real coat until October and said lots of snow and rain were two aspects of the weather she was not accustomed to. 

“I don’t really like snow … I don’t like rain even more,” Hyunh said. “I get crankier when I see the rain, like sometimes I don’t want to go to the gym. Honestly, I think [the rain] makes me want to nap more. It is so gloomy outside, and I don’t feel motivated to do anything”

Leyva said students are implicitly affected by the weather. 

“I read about a study that showed that college students — if you ask them, ‘Are you affected by weather?’ most of them will say, ‘no, what do you mean?” Leyva said. “We are not conscious of that, especially college students, but if you were to measure their mood over time you would see those changes.”

Tran shared coinciding feelings. 

“I think I actually got really affected by it [weather],” Tran said. “I didn’t even know that I was low-energy until now when it’s sunnier I am like ‘Woah, why am I so happy?’ When it is a bad day, I also don’t want to leave my dorm, and I feel really tired.” 

Leyva also discussed what psychologists call seasonal affective disorder.

“Basically, what this means is that there are some people who are really sensitive to changes in the season,” Leyva said.

Tran related how she was able to use nice weather to combat her spiking mood during a stretch of subpar weather.

“Two weeks before spring break, I had to book a flight back home for the weekend because I needed sun,” Tran said. “I returned for midterm season and I was better.” 

Leyva said now that the sun is coming out more, the general population should feel better. 

“Now that we are in spring, we should be seeing more students who are more active, who have more energy, who are feeling like they can do more things and that they can be productive,” Leyva said.

About the Contributor
Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer
Aidan Kasner is a first-year student studying Media and Professional Communications.