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Meet the 2013 ASPET Washington Fellows!

Rosie G. Albarran-Zeckler
The Scripps Research Institute (FL)


Rosie Albarrán-ZecklerRosie was born and raised in Puerto Rico. After graduating from University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras with a BS in Biology, she pursued graduate studies at Baylor College of Medicine where she studied the regulation of dopamine receptor type-1 (D1R) signaling by the hormone ghrelin and its receptor (GHS-R1a). She recently defended her thesis project and earned a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from BCM. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at The Scripps Research Institute in Florida. At Scripps, she has been investigating the modulation of D1R-regulated behaviors such as motivation, attention, and learning by the GHS-R1a in mice. Additionally, Rosie is actively involved in education outreach initiatives and the professional development of fellow students and postdocs, and this led her to her become an Education Outreach Associate in the Department of Education Outreach at Scripps Florida. In this new position, her goal is to help middle and high school students, especially from underrepresented groups, get excited about science and math; she hopes that more students will excel at science and pursue scientific careers. 
 
 
Molly K. Altman
University of Georgia


Molly AltmanMolly is currently a graduate student in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Georgia. Her dissertation research seeks to further understand and characterize specific proteins involved in the signaling mechanisms that lead to chemoresistance in ovarian cancer. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a focus in Neuroscience from the University of Florida. Molly is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, where her family was stationed in the Navy. Molly is interested in how local communities of scientists can influence public policy in Washington, DC. She feels her role as an ASPET Washington Fellow helps to extend her commitment to the advancement of biomedical research.
 
 
Catherine M. Davis
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


Catherine DavisCatherine is a National Space Biomedical Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. Her current research focuses on determining the behavioral, neurochemical, and physiological differences that impact an individual’s sensitivity to cognitive neurobehavioral deficits following exposure to ionizing radiation or the administration of various drugs of abuse. She received her M.A.and Ph.D. from the Behavior, Cognition, and Neuroscience program at American University in Washington, DC. She is a 2004 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, PA, where she majored in Psychology, with a concentration in Neuroscience. Catherine was born and raised in Charleroi, PA and currently lives in Rockville, MD. She hopes the ASPET Washington Fellows program will enable her to successfully engage her colleagues in discussions of science policy issues and to help establish a larger network of scientists, researchers, and educators who are aware of the policy issues facing biomedical research and education. 
 
 
Summer Leigh Dodson
Oklahoma State University


Summer DodsonA native of Tulsa, Summer attended the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, DC in high school, where she received training in the political process and participated in mock political situations such as international hostage negotiations. At Tulsa University, her research interests in natural products was born where she successfully isolated and identified opioid active components of Monarda citreodora and verified their activity in tissue homogenates. After a seven year break from school while working as an Engineering Technician and then a Process Engineer in manufacturing, Summer entered Oklahoma State University – Center for Health Sciences, to pursue a dream of a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences where she is continuing her opioid research focusing on the effects of methadone on neuroinflammatory signaling. Summer believes that in order to help bridge the gap of understanding between the necessary research tools and monies and the policies that govern science, it is imperative to have a great understanding of both. 
 
 
Robert W. Gould
Vanderbilt University Medical Center


Robert GouldRobert is a postdoctoral fellow at the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His research goals include developing drugs that improve the cognitive deficits associated with neuropsychiatric and degenerative disorders and improving the translatability of preclinical models to clinical settings. Robert received his Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University of Health Sciences where his studies focused on characterizing the detrimental effects of cocaine on the brain and its effects on cognition, and attempting to improve cognitive function via novel drugs targeting the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor system as an adjunct therapy for treating cocaine addiction. Robert’s interest in advocating on behalf of scientific research at both the local community and national levels stems his belief that a strong dialogue between researchers, the public, and elected representatives is integral for improving quality of life. Robert is a past participant in ASPET’s 2011 Capitol Hill Day during the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology. 
 
 
Kristoff T. Homan
University of Michigan


Kristoff HomanBorn in Crown Point, Indiana, Kristoff grew up in Indiana and Illinois and graduated from the University of Chicago Laboratory High School. He subsequently studied physics and mathematics at the University of Illinois as an undergraduate. Kristoff then attended Purdue University for graduate work in structural biology, where he focused on the identification of small molecule inhibitors for a low molecular weight protein tyrosine phosphatase in order to develop new treatments for metastatic transformation. After graduation 2010, his post-doctoral work at the University of Michigan involved G protein signaling networks, specifically the interactions between G protein-coupled receptors and G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs). He has been studying the structural basis of these interactions as well as translational research oriented at small molecule inhibitor discovery, characterization, and optimization for the GRKs.
 
 
Adam J. Kuszak
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Adam KuszakAdam is an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow. His research interests focus on the structure and function of membrane proteins and his postdoctoral work investigates macromolecular complexes in bacteria and mitochondria that import proteins and insert them into the plasma membrane. Since 2010, he has become increasingly involved in science policy and advocacy, driven by a desire to educate the general public about the ever increasing scientific understanding of our world and to utilize that understanding to advance the health and prosperity of our society. He has worked extensively with the NIH Fellows Science Policy and Discussion Group and served as its co-chair. Adam was born in Detroit and raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. He received his B.S. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan Medical School.
 
 
Gloria E. Malpass
Wake Forest University Health Sciences


Gloria MalpassGloria graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a BS in Mathematics. She has worked in the quality control division at GE Aircraft Engines in Wilmington, NC and Lynn, MA. An interest in pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry led her to the doctoral program in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Since receiving her Ph.D., she has been a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University Health Sciences. Her current research is focused on identifying biomarkers in human dermal fibroblasts that may be impacted by tobacco products and is supported by a RJR-Leon Goldberg Fellowship. Gloria hopes to educate others on the importance of biomedical research, and to advocate for science policy based on sound scientific arguments.
 
 
Melissa Branham O’Connor
Medical University of South Carolina


Melissa O’ConnorAlthough born in Jamestown, NY, Melissa’s family moved all over the east coast before settling in Charleston, SC. She received a dual bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from the College of Charleston and a Ph.D. in microbiology and molecular medicine from Clemson University. Melissa pursued a postdoctoral career at the Medical University of South Carolina where she investigates modulators of G protein signaling in immune cells. She also serves as an adjunct instructor both at The College of Charleston and at The Citadel and is actively involved in the Lowcountry STEM initiative to improve the competitiveness of South Carolina education. Melissa is eagerly anticipating working as an ASPET Washington Fellow in order to raise awareness for science policy and funding.
 
 
Alison Presley
American University


Alison PresleyAlison was born and raised in Albany, Georgia and attended the University of Georgia. As a psychology major, she was exposed to a variety of topics and didn’t decide on drug abuse research until her senior year. After school, she took a year to work as a government affairs intern at a research related trade association. Following the internship, Alison was accepted into American University’s Behavior, Cognition and Neuroscience program in Washington, DC. Her primary interests focus on the aversive effects of drugs of abuse and the mechanisms by which they act. She is currently a second year graduate student. Alison feels that the ASPET Washington Fellows Program will provide a great opportunity to bridge the gap between the work of scientists and our lawmakers. As a young scientist, she hopes to bridge this gap and communicate with lawmakers on behalf of researchers.
 
 
Matthew Robson
West Virginia University


Matthew RobsonA native of Waterloo, NY, Matthew completed his undergraduate coursework and received a B.S. in biochemistry from Canisius College. While at Canisius College, he conducted research in the neuropharmacology research division at the DENT neurologic institute. His primary research interest while there focused upon health outcomes in secondary stroke patients in regards to their responsiveness to antiplatelet medication regimens. Matthew became a graduate student at West Virginia University in 2008 and will be completing his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences in the spring of 2013. While at West Virginia University, his primary research focus has been the therapeutic potential of sigma receptor ligands for the treatment of neuropsychiatric conditions, specifically in the areas of depression and drug abuse. He has accepted a postdoctoral position at Vanderbilt University to examine the role of serotonin transporters and serotonin-related signaling in several neurologic disorders. Matthew believes science advocacy is an important skill needed by members of the scientific community and that scientists with a passion for both research and public policy are able to effectively portray the importance of federal funding for biomedical research and why it is a good investment for the American taxpayer. 
 
 
Abigail G. Schindler
University of Washington


Abigail SchindlerAbigail is a senior fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington. She grew up in Santa Cruz, CA and attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received a full ride volleyball scholarship. After graduating with a B.S. in Psychology and minor in Biology she worked as a research technician with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation at University of California Irvine. Abigail was awarded her Ph.D. from the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Washington in 2012. Her dissertation work focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying stress-induced increase in drug reward. Her current postdoctoral research involves determining the behavioral and molecular mechanisms leading to increased risk taking behavior in adulthood following adolescent alcohol intake. She is the co-leader of Seattle's Forum on Science Ethics and Policy, helps organize the Science Policy Summit at University of Washington, and writes a science policy and research blog. Additionally, Abigail has previously traveled to Washington, DC to advocate for increased science funding and believes a strong federal research program is essential to economic prosperity and the future success of the country.
 
 
Tricia H. Smith
Virginia Commonwealth University


Tricia SmithTricia was raised in Sarasota, FL and began her science career at the University of Florida, obtaining a Bachelor of Science in zoology. She received a Masters in Pharmacology from the Tulane University School of Medicine and in 2009 completed her Ph.D. in Pharmacology at VCU. Her primary research interests include drugs of abuse; particularly cannabinoids and opioids, similar to marijuana and morphine, respectively. Her specialties include electrophysiology and g-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) function. Currently, Tricia studies the effects of morphine in the gastrointestinal system as a postdoctoral research fellow at VCU. Tricia believes that scientific involvement in government is crucial to our national prosperity and that governmental policy should be shaped by sound scientific research. 
 
 
Information and Application Guidelines for the 2014 ASPET Washington Fellows Program can be found at http://www.aspet.org/advocacy/grassroots/2014-washington-fellows-program/

 

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