Projects for 2007-08

Alcohol Place Conditioning Studies in Mice

Description: Most theories of drug abuse and addiction are predicated in part on the assumption that most humans use, abuse, and subsequently become addicted to alcohol and other drugs because of the reinforcing and rewarding effects these substances produce (e.g., euphoria, relief from negative feelings). My primary research interest is the understanding of the neuropharmacological mechanisms underlying the effects of drugs of abuse, in other words, what’s happening in the brain while these drugs are on board. An ongoing project in the lab is looking at the role of dopamine systems in the conditioned effects of alcohol in mice. I’m also starting work on a new project looking at whether adolescent mice are affected differently by alcohol than adults are, and at the effect of alcohol exposure during adolescence on drug-seeking as adults (also using mice).

Why should we look at drunk mice? Well, the processes of conditioning (association of environmental cues and drug effects) are thought to be extremely important in craving and relapse in humans, and while alcohol is used by a large proportion of people in our society, the neural effects of alcohol are quite complex and not fully understood.

Finally, over the next couple of years I’ll be setting up electrochemistry equipment to assess genetically determined differences and drug-induced changes in brain neurochemistry in mice and rats. This will be particularly exciting in conjunction with the adolescent work, since we will be able to actually measure how various proteins work at different times during brain development.

Faculty: Shelly Dickinson, Psychology

Helpful background: Bio psych and/or Conditioning and Learning (that would be 238 and/or 236) would be very useful.

Linguistics: Northern City Vowel Shift in Hmong Americans

Description: —

Faculty: Rika Ito, Linguistics

Prairie reconstruction: Germination & Growth of Plant Species in Different Soils

Description: —

Faculty: Dianne Angell, Biology

U.S. Farm Subsidies and Developing Countries

Description: This project will continue and expand on research done to examine the effect of U.S rice subsidies on the Costa Rican rice market from 1990 to present. It is not necessary to have previous experience to join in on this project during the coming academic year.

Faculty: Beckie Judge, Economics

Faculty: Tony Becker and Beckie Judge, Economics

Helpful background: Macro and Microeconomics

Migrant Health in Southeast Iowa

Description: —

Faculty: Julie Legler, Statistics

Statistics as a tool to further Tuberculosis Genome Research

Description: TB latently infects 1/3 of humanity, killing millions annually, especially in combination with HIV. The sequence of TB genome offers us the best opportunity in decades to understand and combat this ancient disease. St. Olaf currently runs the largest database in the world showing how TB uses its genes in real time to respond to its environment. This database is a fertile field for statistical discovery and analysis. I’d be delighted to speak with any statistics concentrators who might be interested in learning more about the types of projects available.

Faculty: Rob Rutherford, Biology

Helpful background: Statistics 212, interests in biology and/or computer science would all be helpful, but are not required.

WHO: Foodborne Disease

Description: A project building on work completed during the 2007 Biostatistics Interim, we will look at estimating the global burden using data from various countries.

Faculty: Julie Legler

Helpful background: Familiarity with multivariate analysis methods

Investigative Neuroscience in the National Psychology Curriculum

Description: —

Faculty: Howard Thorsheim

Helpful background: Neuroscience