2019

First Place

Portrait image of Aditya Tummala, first place winner.
Aditya Tummala
Tampr-X: A Novel Technology to Combat Prescription Opioid Abuse
Aditya, recognizing the need for an improved tamper-proof opioid pill to reduce the potential for misuse, developed a gummy-like substance he calls Tampr-X that could not be crushed or melted for snorting or injecting.

Second Place

Portrait image of Sid Thakker, second place winner.
Sid Thakker
The Role of ALPHA5 Single Nucleotide Polymorphism on Nicotine Dependence
Using an in vitro model, Sid manipulated and edited the gene expression of the ALPHA5 nicotinic receptor, which has been linked to nicotine addiction.

Third Place

Portrait image of Nikita Rohila, third place winner.
Nikita Rohila
Trends and Factors for Risky Behaviors Among Adolescents
Nikita created a survey she sent out to nearly 100 teens which revealed three significant contributing factors to risky behaviors: unhealthy amounts of smartphone and social media use, sleep deprivation, and bullying victimization.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mention winner Nikhiya Shamsher
QuitPuff: A Point of Care Diagnostic for Early Risk Detection of Oral Pre-Cancer and Cancer in Chronic Smokers
L to R: Judges Drs. Janet Neisewander and Jonna Jackson, Nikhiya Shamsher, Judges Drs. Michelle Jobe and Cassandra Gipson-Reichard What if you lived in a community where many people smoked, but there was little access to health care? That is the situation faced by a teen in Bangalore, Karnataka, India,.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions Tinotenda Zimhunga and Rufaro Mutogo
Alcohol Sensors
L to R: Judges Drs. Jonna Jackson and Janet Neisewander, Tinotenda Zimhunga, Judges Drs. Michelle Jobe and Cassandra Gipson-Reichard Zimbabwe, Africa is the home of beautiful safari parks, and the gorgeous Victoria Falls, which attracts tourists from all over the world. It is also the home of 16 million people.

Honorable Mentions

Zakwan Khan
Investigating the Role of the Cat-2 Gene in Substance Dependence

2018

First Place

Mia Yu and Daphne Liu
Mia Yu and Daphne Liu
Undetected Suicide: Classification of Undetermined Drug-Related Deaths Using Machine Learning Techniques
Mia and Daphne compared three machine learning models to determine how well they could identify undetermined overdose deaths as actual suicides. Using data from their home state of Utah, the machine learning technique determined that drug-related suicide deaths were underreported by 34 percent.

Second Place

Rohan Arora, Venkat Krishnan, and Anil Tolwani
Rohan Arora, Venkat Krishnan, and Anil Tolwani
LabTrak: A Micro-Telemetry Device for Modeling Mice Behavior
Rohan, Venkat and Anil developed a well-tested and lightweight non-invasive tool to measure mouse movements during the preclinical phase of medication development. The tool, designed to send data straight to a computer or cell phone, is sensitive enough to determine the difference between running, scratching, turning or head movements.

Third Place

Saadh Ahmed
Saadh Ahmed
Development of a Drug-Likeness Rule for Natural Products
Saadh analyzed a database that contains drug-like natural compounds, and evaluated them for patterns and commonalities. Using qualitative and quantitative screening techniques, he developed streamlined measures for identifying multiple natural compounds that could be worthy of study for specific health conditions.

Honorable Mentions

Emily Garcia
What Influences Safe Medication Practices: Investigating the Relationship Between Parent’s Intentions, Self-Efficacy and Knowledge

Honorable Mentions

Ha Khoa Le and Phuong Nam Nguyen
The Study of Concentration of Urine Neurotransmitters of Dopaminergic and Serotonergic System and the Relationship to Behavioral Disorders in Patients with Online Gaming Addiction

Honorable Mentions

Ishaan Maitra
A Quantifiable Method to Detect and Monitor ADHD: The Use of Facial and Motion-Based Behavioral Cues Analysis Using Deep Neural Network and RGBD Data

Honorable Mentions

Sindhuja Uppuluri
A Novel Approach to Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Using Transient Receptor Potential Channels and Insulin Signaling in C Elegans

2017

First Place

Anusha Zaman
Anusha Zaman
Epigenetic and Biotransformation Effects of Hookah Smoke Extract on Human Oral Keratinocytes
Anusha analyzed the effect of wet and dry hookah smoke extracts on epithelial cells inside the mouth. Her findings suggest that hookah smoke produces adverse health effects similar to those of cigarette smoke.

Second Place

Nkima Stephenson
Nkima Stephenson
Data Analysis of the Epigenetics of Drugs and Alcohol
Nkima compared two data sets containing genes directly related to alcohol exposure to sets containing genes modified by environmental influences and related to alcohol exposure. She identified genetic and environmental factors that could signify a predisposition to addiction.

Third Place

Kashfia Nehrin Rahman
The Dynamics of Habituation: A Neural Study of the Effects of Repeated Exposures to Risky Behaviors on Cognitive Control and Emotional Responses in the Adolescent Brain
Kashfia concluded through her research that repeated risky exposures can desensitize associated negative responses, explaining why teens take risks when they know a behavior is dangerous. UPDATE (February 2019): Kashfia recently gave a TED Talk about her research and experience as a three-time award winner of the NIDA Addiction Science Award.

Honorable Mentions

Anuj Gupta
Do Parents Really Know Best? Investigating the Relationship between Perceived Parental Goals and Academic Factors

Honorable Mentions

Dilge Kocabas and Dilara Alev Ortel
Illegal Substance Biodetectives: Apta-Liposomes

Honorable Mentions

Caleb Martonfi
And the Winner Is…Developing a Computer Program to Investigate Neural Competition with Multimodal Stimuli

2016

First Place

Kashfia Nehrin Rahman
Making the Mind Matter: Stress Mindset Effects on Sleep Quality, Stress Response, Emotion and Cognition in the Developing Adolescent Brain and the Role of the Prefrontal-Amygdala Circuit
Kashfia found a direct correlation between a teen’s negative outlook on stress and a negative physical stress response that adversely impacts sleep quality, emotion and cognition. UPDATE (February 2019): Kashfia recently gave a TED Talk about her research and experience as a three-time award winner of the NIDA Addiction Science.

Second Place

Lindsay Poulos
Lindsay Poulos
The Effects of E-Cigarette Vapor on Drosophila melanogaster
Lindsay explored whether e-cigarettes might be a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes and found that fruit flies exposed to e-cigarette vapor showed evidence of gene mutations.

Third Place

Rachel Mashal
Rachel Mashal
Development of a Caffeine Addiction Paradigm to Examine How Dietary Restriction and Level of TOR Signaling Modulate the Effects of Drugs
Rachel found that dietary changes protected adult fruit flies from the negative effects of caffeine. She also found that male fruit flies are more vulnerable to some negative effects of caffeine during development and into adulthood.

Honorable Mentions

Matthew Forman and Jack Lepkowski
Exploring ways to reduce ADHD symptoms and PTSD severity

Honorable Mentions

Alexus McBride
Exploring the use of social media in recovery and relapse prevention

2015

First Place

Glenn Yu
Glenn Yu
Naturalistic Painkillers: Design, Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Novel Fatty Acid Binding Protein Inhibitors
Glenn used computational modeling, chemical synthesis of analogs, and biological testing to identify and theoretically build a more effective and safer pain reliever.

Second Place

Ralph Lawton
Don’t Be Led Ashtray: Toxicological Effects of Electronic Cigarettes on Inflammation and Lung Cell Viability with Comparison by Brand, Flavor and Generation
Ralph looked at the toxicological effects of e-cigarette vapor on lung cell viability and inflammation. His project suggests that tobacco vapor can be just as damaging to lung cells as traditional cigarette smoke.

Third Place

Kashfia Nehrin Rahman
Nomophobia: Effects of Smartphone Dependence and Separation on Stress, Anxiety, Memory and Cognition in the Developing Adolescent Brain
Kashfia found direct correlation between stress and the temporary loss of a cell phone, which she called “nomophobia” for “No More Mobile Phone.” UPDATE (February 2019): Kashfia recently gave a TED Talk about her research and experience as a three-time award winner of the NIDA Addiction Science Award.

Honorable Mentions

Lucas Lopes Cendes
Improving the Efficiency of Genome Variants Detection by the Parallelization of its Computer Process

Honorable Mentions

Ajitha Mallidi
A Novel Animal Model to Replicate Alcohol-Seeking Behavior in Humans

2014

First Place

Lily Wei Lee
Assessment of Third Hand Exposure to Nicotine from Electronic Cigarettes
Lily examined whether e-cigarette use could pose a risk of third hand exposure, where nicotine from vapors sticks to surfaces to affect non-users even if they aren’t exposed to the e-cigarette use.

Second Place

Aakash Jain
Aakash Jain
Computational Analysis of the GABA(A) Receptor
Aakash used computational and statistical techniques to provide insight into the three-dimensional structure of the GABA(A) receptor, believed to be involved in conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and addiction.

Third Place

Alexandra Ulmer and Sarayu Caulfield
Alexandra Ulmer and Sarayu Caulfield
Capacity Limits of Working Memory: The Impact of Multitasking on Cognitive Control and Emotion Recognition in the Adolescent Mind
The pair explored whether experience with multitasking affected behaviors controlled by the prefrontal cortex, an area involved in self-control.

2013

First Place

Zarin Ibnat Rahman
The At-Risk Maturing Brain: Effects of Stress Paradigms on Mood, Memory and Cognition in Adolescents and the Role of the Prefrontal Cortex
Zarin hypothesized that excessive screen time with computers, phones and other electronic devices serves as a stressor ultimately affecting mood, academic performance and poor decision making.

Second Place

The Effect of Ethanol on Beta Cell Development in Zebrafish
After exposing Zebrafish embryos to increasing concentrations of ethanol (a pure form of alcohol), the team observed the health and function of pancreatic beta cells, which are needed to produce insulin.

Third Place

Alaina Nicole Sonksen
Alaina Nicole Sonksen
Determining the Behavioral and Physiological Effects of Pentedrone-Based Bath Salts on Drosophila melangaster
Alaina looked at the effects of two versions of the drugs called “bath salts” on the common fruit fly and found that substances acted more like a hallucinogen than a stimulant, with the flies appearing to be in a daze.

Honorable Mention

Gili Rusak
Properties of Twitter Network Communications Among Teenagers

2012

First Place

John Edward Solder
Optogenetic Interrogation of Prefrontal Cortex Dopamine D1 Receptor-Containing Neurons as a Technique to Restore Timing: A Novel Approach to Treat Prefrontal Disorders
John was able to control behavioral timing in mice that were genetically modified to activate dopamine neurons in the prefrontal cortex, a region involved in functions such as impulsivity and self-control, in response to a light stimulus.

Second Place

Benjamin Jake Kornick
Benjamin Jake Kornick
OMG: Look Who Joined Facebook! The Relationship between Parenting and Adolescent Risk Behaviors
Benjamin conducted a 74-item survey of more than 130 teens to construct a novel model of the complex relationships between parental knowledge and their children’s undesirable or risky behaviors.

Third Place

L. Elisabeth Burton
A Big Fat Deal, Phase III: Attributions of Body Talk, Risk Assessments of Steroid/Dietary Supplement Use, Perceptions of Media Images, and Self-Esteem
Elisabeth conducted a survey of nearly 200 teenagers to determine how their internal self image and self esteem affected eating disorders, steroid use and potentially dangerous use of dietary supplements.

Honorable Mention

Zarin Ibnat Rahman
Boosting the ADHD Brain: Effects of Gum Chewing and Caffeine on Cognition and Memory in Adolescents with ADHD

2011

First Place

Sarah Susie Pak
Sarah Susie Pak
Would You Do It for the Kids? Factors Involved in the Prediction of Intergenerational Preferences
Sarah’s project identified generosity and patience as two key interacting factors that increase the likelihood that a person will make altruistic decisions that will primarily help future generations.

Second Place

Darby Kathryn Schumacher
Darby Kathryn Schumacher
Making Heartbeats Go LOKO
Darby investigated the effects of the alcoholic caffeinated beverage on the heart rate of the water flea. Her findings support the notion that caffeine in alcoholic energy drinks could mask some of alcohol's behavioral effects.

Third Place

Yamini T. Naidu
From Models to Medications: Identification of Medication Leads for Treating Methamphetamine Addiction
Using molecular modeling software that incorporated eye-catching 3D structural illustrations and vivid computer animations, Naidu discovered two potential sites in the methamphetamine binding TAA receptor.

2010

First Place

Ameya Ashish Deshmukh
Ameya Ashish Deshmukh
Rational Drug Design Methods for the Identification of a Novel Negative Allosteric Modulator of a4b2 Nicotinic Receptors
Ameya used “rational drug design” to select candidate molecules based on previous research, narrow the list using molecular models, and finally, test these on human cells to identify which compounds show promise for treating nicotine addiction.

Second Place

Kevin Michael Knight
Kevin Michael Knight
Improving ADHD Treatment: A Comparison of Stimulant Medication Treatment for Children with ADHD, Computerized Cognitive Training of Attention and Working Memory, and the Combination of the Two
Kevin examined whether it is possible to use specialized computer programs to re-train the brains of students with ADHD, either as an alternative or as a complement to the stimulant medications typically prescribed to treat ADHD.

Third Place

Joseph Hunter Yagoda
Risky Business: What Cognitive Factors Influence Risk Taking in the Academic Setting?
Using an innovative simulation mimicking a prototypical classroom, Joseph measured his subjects' perceptions of the risks of skipping class.