Psychology graduate student Erica Holliday was recently named the winner of this year’s Weinstein Graduate Student award. Funded by the Civic Foundation, the award is given annually to a psychology graduate student who demonstrates tremendous work ethic and research capacity.
The award includes a $3,500 prize meant to help defray the costs of the winning student’s research. Weinstein plans to use the funding to help illustrate the causal relationship between nicotine and stress during adolescence with long-term learning deficits. Additionally, she hopes to discover the location in the brain where changes resulting from adolescent stress and adolescent nicotine happen. She hopes these findings will establish a foundation for improving mental health and expose further information about long-term learning deficits.
Holliday’s exact research plans involve “completing a time course analysis in stress hormone levels comparing adolescent and adult rodents and how this interacts with chronic nicotine exposure.” While the original research is to be done with rodents, the research findings have high potential to extend in application to human subjects.
As part of the award, Holliday will present her research findings on September 22 to the Psychology Department and to Roslyn and Stephen Weinstein, the founders of the Civic Foundation.
This is an important component of Holliday’s curriculum, she said, because the process of presenting her research findings is as integral to the process in psychology as actually conducting the research. Holliday said she sees the presentation process as “an excellent opportunity to see [her] own research through the eyes of esteemed faculty members whose research focuses are different from [her own].” Post-presentation discussions have always helped to foster future ideas and refine the interpretation of the initial findings, she said.
If Holliday’s research is successful in illustrating a strong link between stress, nicotine and learning deficits in adolescents, she has big plans to take her research to the next level. She would ultimately like to gain further understanding of what goes on at the hormonal level and add various interventions (like physical activity and dietary supplementation) to see if the learning impairment could be reversed.
– Joel Kaplan