This summer, JAX was thrilled to welcome visiting scientists from Morgan State University to engage in experiential learning and collaborative research in the area of addiction genetics and genomics.
The Morgan State team was led by Ingrid Tulloch, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, accompanied by DeAnna James and Kamille Trice, undergraduate researchers in the Tulloch lab. The broad goal of Dr. Tulloch’s research program is to develop effective interventions for substance abuse. In order to address this ongoing need, her lab is examining the interactions between genotype and social environment in influencing substance abuse patterns and the gene expression profile in rodent models of polydrug self-administration.
Dr. Tulloch is a past participant in the JAX Short Course on the Genetics of Addiction and, through this engagement, took advantage of a new NIH/NIDA-funded program at JAX led by Professor and Ann Watson Symington Chair in Addiction Research, Elissa Chesler, Ph.D. Launched in 2022, the broad goal of this program is to support and expand a diverse community of academics in their pursuit and advancement of addiction-related education, research and careers. The program enables in-person, mentored research experiences and training at JAX for faculty-level course participants along with their trainees. Dr. Tulloch’s team worked with the Chesler lab and Baker lab to make use of the advanced research resources at JAX and to learn hands-on and bioinformatic techniques needed to augment their research approach and develop collaborations.
We sat down with the very first faculty-trainee team to participate in the mentored research program this summer to learn more about their research goals and reflect on their collaborative research and training experience at JAX.
Q&A with the inaugural faculty-trainee team from Morgan State University
Meet Ingrid Tulloch, Ph.D.
Ingrid Tulloch, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of the Animal Behavior Research Facility at Morgan State.
Q: What is your professional background?
A: I am a product of the City University of New York psychology undergraduate and graduate programs with three years post-doctoral training in the molecular neuropsychiatry lab of Jean Lud Cadet at NIH-NIDA. Throughout most of my training and then professional life, the behavioral neuroscience of substance use has been a constant focus.
Q: How would you describe your research, and what do you hope it will accomplish?
A: My research examines how life experiences and biological activity influence risky behaviors. An easy way to think of it is that I study both the nurture and nature of risky health behaviors, with substance use the primary risky behavior of interest. For example, I might manipulate social stressors as the life experience/nurture component. I then manipulate or measure the activity of specific genes and proteins to see how those factors predict substance use. This approach is because I hope to understand the biological and psychosocial vulnerabilities that lead to addiction or the factors that protect one from that impulsive and compulsive substance use. I ask questions like what drives the trajectory from no drug use to impulsive and compulsive use observed in addiction. Not everyone who uses a drug becomes addicted; can I identify the specific psychosocial and biological reasons why? I know it sounds clichéd, but there is still a common view of addiction as a moral failing rather than a medical issue that requires treatment. How we approach mental health and treat those most vulnerable to substance use are upsetting to me. The aim is to clearly understand the factors involved in substance use and how they lead to or might prevent addiction. Ultimately with that knowledge, the hope is that we can not only develop effective interventions but drive public health policies toward more compassionate implementation of effective treatments for all.
Q: What did you find impactful about your collaborative research and training experience at JAX?
A: The most impactful experience was the time spent discussing research ideas with Elissa Chesler and her team. I was able to articulate the immediate and long-term goals I had for my research and learn to use some of the tools she developed to refine how to approach testing some of my long-held hypotheses about substance use.
Q: What else should people know about your roles at Morgan State and your research program?
A: At Morgan State, I serve as the director of the laboratory animal research program, and I teach undergraduate psychology and mentor graduate and undergraduate biomedical researchers. These roles at Morgan State allow me to engage in the rigorous, transdisciplinary, and collaborative research I envisioned for myself as a graduate student. These roles also allow me to engage this way while supporting Morgan’s mission of “empowering and preparing high-quality, diverse graduates to lead the world.” I am fortunate in that I love what I do and coming to work does not seem like work.
Meet DeAnna James and Kamille Trice
Two of Dr. Tulloch’s undergraduate trainees joined her at JAX – DeAnna James and Kamille Trice.
DeAnna James is a senior at Morgan State University, majoring in psychology, and is interested in pursuing either a Ph.D. in neuropsychology or clinical psychology in the future. While at JAX, DeAnna enjoyed learning techniques for handling mice and becoming familiar with the different strains of mice. “I also found the oral administration and seeing other devices used for testing useful since that can help with refining and adapting my current study and for the lab,” DeAnna shared. “Overall, my experience at JAX was eye-opening, as it expanded my knowledge of more things to look out for and potentially include in my future research.”
Kamille Trice is a junior at Morgan State University, majoring in psychology with a minor in chemistry, and works as a research assistant with Dr. Tulloch. Kamille found the biomethods training at JAX impactful. “It was very informative and gave me the skills that I will use in my research,” Kamille noted.
Both DeAnna and Kamille will be presenting their individual research projects within the Tulloch lab at the 2022 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) in November.
What’s next for Dr. Tulloch, DeAnna and Kamille?
During this academic year, DeAnna and Kamille are continuing their research projects within the Tulloch lab. DeAnna is focused on the sex differences in the saffron effects on a mouse model of lipopolysaccharide-induced sickness, while Kamille is examining the sex and genetic influences on murine ultrasonic vocalizations.
In addition to teaching during the new academic year, Dr. Tulloch continues to move forward with the research project focused on determining transcriptional differences in the striatum of single versus polysubstance self-administration in the biosocial group of mice most vulnerable to self-administer the drugs.
Dr. Tulloch’s collaborators within the JAX Center for Addiction Biology look forward to continuing to support this research initiative. “We are excited to continue working with the Tulloch lab and to work with other visiting faculty and trainee teams to establish meaningful collaborations that strengthen the addiction research community through greater diversity of investigators addressing challenging research questions with sophisticated technologies,” commented Dr. Chesler.