Drugs & Health Blog

Identifying Unreported Overdose Suicides: Top Addiction Science Award Winner 2018

L to R: First place winners Mia Yu and Daphne Liu; Second place winners Rohan Arora, Venkat Krishnan and Anil Tolwani; Third place winner Saadh Ahmed.​

Photo by NIDA

The NIDA Blog Team

NIDA’s Addiction Science Awards honor remarkable teen scientists. Each year, NIDA judges select three projects from the entries submitted by nearly 1,800 students from 75 countries. It all happens at the world's largest science competition for high school students, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which was held this year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Identifying unreported suicides

This year, first place was awarded to Mia Yu and Daphne Liu from Salt Lake City, Utah. They developed a bioinformatics program that can better identify when a death resulting from a drug overdose is really a suicide. Identifying this can be challenging, because mental health issues and substance use issues often happen together.

Mia and Daphne used a machine learning platform to reveal that drug-related suicide deaths in Utah were underreported by 34 percent. Their work could improve the ways treatment professionals recognize and help people who have both drug problems and mental health problems.

Mia and Daphne will split a $2,500 award provided by Friends of NIDA, a private scientific group that supports NIDA's mission.

Solutions in medication development

The second- and third-place winners designed tools that could improve how medications are developed.

Three seniors from Freemont, California, Rohan Arora, Venkat Krishnan, and Anil Tolwani, created an innovative non-invasive chip to put on mice that records their movements during medicine development work in the lab. Third-place winner Saadh Ahmed developed a screening technique to help identify natural compounds that may eventually be helpful in treating various health conditions.

All of these projects can advance the science of addiction. Congratulations to Mia, Daphne, Rohan, Venkat, Anil, and Saadh, and all the Addiction Science Award participants! For more about the awards, check out this post on the main NIDA page, and learn about winning projects from previous years.

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