Katherine “Katie” Wright, who works in the lab of Biomedical Sciences researcher Mohamed Kabbaj, has been selected for this year’s Beidler Award.
Wright was chosen because of her productivity, creativity, collegiality and public service — all characteristics of former biological scientist Lloyd Beidler, who in the 1950s helped catapult Florida State into the category of major research university.
The $500 award will help advance Wright’s dissertation research on the abuse potential of ketamine using a model of depression, and whether hormones, stress and sex differences have an influence.
“Ketamine has rapid antidepressant effects, but it’s also commonly abused in club settings and music festivals,” said the fourth-year doctoral student. “But we haven’t looked at low doses that are used for treating depression. I thought it would be good to look at whether females are more susceptible to ketamine addiction than their male counterparts at very low doses and if stress will exacerbate that.”
Wright has had six publications, including a first-author paper in the Journal of Neuroscience. She believes that creativity is inherent in behavioral neuroscience, with researchers “trying to derive information and apply it to humans.” She maintains collegiality by facilitating “patting each other on the back,” and she enjoys helping mentor premed students in the lab and volunteering for the Program in Neuroscience’s outreach events. To Wright, “it’s important to foster future generations of scientists.”
One day, she hopes to help make a societal and clinical impact for neuroscience.
“I’m trying to become more involved in science policy,” she said. “I think it is critical for society to understand the importance of what neuroscientists do. It would be great if my research eventually helps inform better therapies for people with depression, addiction or both. That’s the ultimate goal. But one person can’t do that alone. It’s going to take the whole field pushing for improvement.”
The examples of neuroscientists like Beidler are a motivation.
“Do you know the miracle fruit?” she asked. “They make a pill, and if you eat it, it turns anything sour sweet. Dr. Beidler was the first person to characterize that. He was big in the taste field, and he really put the Neuroscience Program at FSU on the map.”
She also derives motivation from her major professor.
“Dr. Kabbaj gives me good advice, and he’s a really great role model,” said Wright. “He gives me a lot of freedom to pursue my research interests, but he’ll catch me if I fall.”
(The Beidler Award is given each year to a senior-level student in FSU’s Program in Neuroscience. To read more about Lloyd Beidler’s accomplishments, visit the American Chemosensory Society or the National Academy of Sciences. John Beidler, the college’s facilities director, is his son.)