October 28, 2010

Sad rats to happy children

For many ambitious Knox students, attending graduate school is a necessary step towards achieving their goals. Some students, however, are already conducting graduate-level research in the form of Honors projects. Senior Katie Nellett, a neuroscience major, hopes her work with antidepressants will fill a research gap in her field.

The Knox Student: What is your Honors project?

Katie Nellett: I want to look at the long term-effects of antidepressants, especially with regards to learning, memory, and weight. I also want to look at the effects of re-giving the drug at a later time.

TKS: What does your research involve?

KN: I did a project over the summer where I looked at the age at which rats act like children in response to antidepressants. I have rats, and for about 14 to 20 days, they’ll be getting two injections a day of SSRI, which is an antidepressant. When they reach early adulthood, I’m going to run different tests, including electrophysiology—I’ll be looking to stimulate different brain slices.

TKS: How did you become interested in this topic?

KN: My advisor, [Associate Professor of Biology] Judy Thorn, suggested that I look into childhood antidepressants because there’s not a lot of research in that area. Also, I’m interested in being a pediatrician, so this will tie into my future.

TKS: What do you hope to find out?

KN: I don’t really have a hypothesis, per se. Of course, I’m hoping this won’t affect learning and memory and that you’ll at least get similar results if you give the drug again later. There’s currently only one antidepressant approved for children under the age of 18, so I’m hoping my research will help contribute to knowledge on this topic. There’s a little bit of research out there, but not a whole lot.

TKS: What advice do you have for students thinking about pursuing Honors?

KN: It’s a lot of work. Be ready to do a lot of independent thinking.

Anna Meier

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