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BBC conference enlightens young addiction scientists

Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 · Volume: XLVI · Issue: 6

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Jonathan Jackson, (left) a member of an underrepresented population who attended his first BBC last year as a senior from The University of Texas at El Paso, is now a first-year graduate student in the School of Medicine. He is doing his doctoral work in the lab of Charles France, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and psychiatry.
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Jonathan Jackson, (left) a member of an underrepresented population who attended his first BBC last year as a senior from The University of Texas at El Paso, is now a first-year graduate student in the School of Medicine. He is doing his doctoral work in the lab of Charles France, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and psychiatry.clear graphic

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Contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579

SAN ANTONIO (March 12, 2013) — The UT Health Science Center San Antonio hosted the Behavior, Biology and Chemistry: Translational Research in Addiction Conference (BBC) March 9-10 at a nearby hotel.

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to Charles France, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and psychiatry in the School of Medicine, helped fund the annual event.

This year’s BBC attracted an international field of more than 100 scientists and focused on tobacco and nicotine addiction — “a major public health issue in Texas and elsewhere,” Dr. France said.

Young scientists invited to present research
The BBC specifically recruits students and young scientists from underrepresented populations to attend and participate in the meeting. “We intentionally place a focus on junior scientists, giving them a chance to present their work and network with senior scientists in this very important field,” Dr. France said. “This year’s BBC featured a very good set of diverse, well-funded investigators. It’s been a lightning rod for young people.”

The NIH funding enabled the BBC to provide 26 full travel stipends for underrepresented young addiction researchers from around the country. Registrants attended from Harvard, Michigan and other centers.

In one of the talks, Paul Pentel, M.D., of the University of Minnesota Medical School, discussed the intriguing idea of nicotine vaccines as a potential treatment for tobacco addiction. Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., of the same institution discussed “Nicotine Reduction in Cigarettes: A National Policy Measure?”

The closing speaker, David Ashley, Ph.D., touched on how science fits into regulatory decisions. Dr. Ashley is director of the Office of Science in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products — the FDA agency responsible for government regulation of tobacco products.

Presenting at BBC attracted Hispanic grad student to Health Science Center
One junior scientist at the BBC was Jonathan Jackson, a member of an underrepresented population (Hispanic) who attended his first BBC last year as a senior from The University of Texas at El Paso. Jackson is now a first-year graduate student in the School of Medicine who, after four laboratory rotations, decided to do his doctoral work in Dr. France’s lab.

“It’s quite a tradition at UTEP to attend the BBC,” Jackson said. “Among conferences this has been my favorite, because it centers on drugs of abuse and behavioral responses to them, which is my field of interest.”

“Jonathan has worked hard,” Dr. France said. “Appreciate that he’s in his first year as a graduate student, in just his second semester, and he already has a significant amount of data to present at a national meeting.”

Jackson attended the 2012 BBC where he was a coauthor on a scientific presentation describing changes in the brain that occur in rats after extended treatment with methamphetamine. At that time he was a student working in the laboratory of Laura O’Dell, Ph.D., at UTEP. Because of the BBC, Jackson learned about the graduate program and the addiction research at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. He subsequently applied, was admitted, and is currently enrolled in the graduate program here with the intention of receiving a Ph.D. in pharmacology.

“Of everywhere I interviewed for graduate school, I was most attracted by the neuroscience research done at the Health Science Center,” Jackson said. “I feel it is well-represented in the BBC.”

The BBC is spawning new collaborations among researchers at Texas universities, Dr. France said.

The 2013 BBC was supported by the National Institutes of Health; the offices of the president, the dean of the School of Medicine and the vice president for research at the Health Science Center; the departments of pharmacology, physiology and psychiatry in the School of Medicine; and the Center for Biomedical Neuroscience.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

 
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