Student Research into Meth Addiction Puzzle Earns National Research Award

Wednesday, January 21 2009


Jan. 21, 2009 Photo is available at www.today.uidaho.edu/PhotoList.aspx Written by Ken Kingery MOSCOW, Idaho – Modeling how antibodies, methamphetamine and the human brain interact can be a complicated business. But Sarahi Ramirez persevered; the University of Idaho senior’s research recently earned national honors and affirmed her decision to focus on research. Born and raised in Mexico, Ramirez moved to Weiser, Idaho, when she was eight. Now a McNair Scholar at the University of Idaho, she is double majoring in Spanish and psychology while adding a minor in chemical addictions. She recently shifted her focus from alcohol and drug counseling to graduate study in psychopharmacology – the study of how drugs interact with the brain and affect behavior. She recently presented her research that models how certain antibodies can treat methamphetamine addicts at the Sigma Xi Poster Competition. The event was part of the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Washington, D.C. Sigma Xi is a scientific research society founded in 1886 to “honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering.” “I never thought about research before this project,” said Ramirez. “I initially wanted to be a counselor, but I’m really enjoying researching and looking up things I’ve never thought about before.” Ramirez’s research poster won Sigma Xi’s Blue Ribbon Award accompanied by a cash prize. The poster was judged on the scientific content, quality of the poster, and Ramirez’s ability to describe and answer questions related to her research. Only 34 students out of more than 230 received the award. Ramirez’s involvement in the research project is due mainly to the McNair Scholars program. The national program seeks to promote graduate school and research to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who demonstrate strong academic potential. It was through the University of Idaho’s McNair program that Ramirez was introduced to Professor Richard Wells, her mentor, as well as helpful committee members Eric Brauns, assistant professor of chemistry and doctoral student Roger Lew. Under the tutelage of the trio, Ramirez worked with anti-methamphetamine monoclonal antibodies (anti-METH mAbs), which bind to methamphetamines and prevent them from entering the brain. These affects have caused researchers to explore using them to reduce METH dependence for addicts. Ramirez’s research involved using equations to model interactions on computer software predicting the effects of Anti-METH mAbs on their target drug. The research will help scientists predict the drug’s behavior in future studies. “I really enjoy trying to fit all the pieces together,” said Ramirez who, besides Wells, recognizes Vicki Trier, director of the McNair Scholarship Program at the University of Idaho, for her experience in the program. “You have this huge puzzle you’re trying to figure out. You work at it for a long time and once you have it done, it’s a big accomplishment.” # # # About the University of Idaho Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu. Media Contact: Ken Kingery, University Communications, (208) 885-9156, kkingery@uidaho.edu



About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.