Psychology student earns regional award for ADHD research

July 1, 2011

Psychology student Caitlin Cosme may be spending her summer in a Bradley research lab, but the work she’s doing could reach far beyond the Hilltop.

Cosme’s project is titled “Repeated Methylphenidate Administration During Adolescent Development in a Rat Model of Depression.” It has been suggested that children who have ADHD have a greater chance of being addicted to drugs later in their lifetimes. Methylphenidate, or Ritalin, is commonly given to children with ADHD. Cosme is testing different ways to administer the drug on rats.

“Before I joined the lab they did this test on a group of control rats. When I entered the lab we started running this same project on rats that actually have ADHD. Now, my specific experiment focuses on rats that serve as a model of depression. We give the rats methylphenidate by injection twice a night, which mimics how a child might take Ritalin by a pill throughout the day. By comparing the two groups, we are hoping to understand if taking Ritalin different ways can have an impact on long-term drug seeking behaviors,” Cosme said.

Cosme is learning specific research techniques and how to research effectively. Her problem-solving skills have also improved. Above all, she hopes her learning experience will help children who take Ritalin.

Cosme’s research is supported by an extremely competitive Undergraduate Regional Research award from the Midwestern Psychological Association. Fewer than seven percent of applicants receive the award. Though Bradley’s psychology department has had four winners in the last three years, Cosme didn’t expect to win.

“I was very surprised! I just thought I had been accepted to attend a conference in Chicago. When I found out I was receiving an award at the conference, I was ecstatic, but more than that, I felt very proud of my research,” Cosme said.

Cosme has enjoyed doing her research so much that she didn’t even think of applying for awards.

“When I won I was really pleased to know other people recognized all the hard work that went into my research and it really inspired me to want to continue doing my research,” she said.

The award has been much more to Cosme than monetary support for her project. It has also given her a lot of emotional support.

“This award will help my project by reminding me how important it is. It has definitely helped me in putting my all into my research on a daily basis. It can also be hard to get funding for animal research, so hopefully this award will show that the work we do in our lab is very important,” Cosme said.

Cosme isn’t working alone. Dr. Timothy Koeltzow is her faculty mentor.

“She is terrific at autonomously anticipating and solving problems, which is a key skillset for her career,” Koeltzow said. “I look forward to teaching Cate more about the biological and surgical techniques we use in the lab, helping her to write an undergraduate research grant and guiding her through the logistics of completing her project.”

“Working with Dr. Koeltzow has been extraordinarily beneficial. He has given me the tools to move from just a student seeking a degree to an active learner who is gaining valuable techniques for my future career,” Cosme said.

But Koeltzow has done more for Cosme than just help with her research. He has given her the support she needs to be the best that she can be.

“Dr. Koeltzow has vastly improved my undergrad experience. Not only has he taught me everything I need to know to run a successful research project, but he is incredibly supportive of all my future plans. He is a great help when it comes to finding a grad school and getting the most out of my time in the lab,” Cosme said.

“My ultimate job is to ensure that she is given the opportunity for her passion to manifest itself so that it will translate into a successful graduate school admissions process,” Koeltzow said.

Koeltzow has quite the reputation when it comes to his students winning the Undergraduate Regional Research award. A student from his lab has won for three consecutive years, a feat no other lab in the region can boast.

“Only one or two other schools have sponsored three consecutive award recipients, so I’m also very proud about what her accomplishment says about the Bradley Experience relative to other schools,” Koeltzow said.