Jenna Pederson, a general studies in biological sciences major from Silverdale, Wash., received an award for her undergraduate research presentation at the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), which were held virtually in November.

Mentored by WSU psychology professor Rebecca Craft, Pederson’s research project on modeling the severity of human pain was recognized in the physiology and pharmacology category, which was sponsored by Merck & Co. and the Society for Leukocyte Biology.

In the abstract for her “Can Human Pain be Modeled in a Rat?” presentation, Pederson said human pain severity is often assessed by the extent to which it disrupts normal activities such as working and exercising. For her research, she looked at a normal behavior of rats—burrowing. She conducted experiments to determine whether pain can be reliably measured by deficits in burrowing behavior, and whether commonly used pain relievers can reverse pain-suppressed burrowing. She reported that while further study is needed, utilizing burrowing behavior in rats may be a good model for measuring pain and the impact of drugs on that pain. Ultimately, data obtained may improve translation of pre-clinical drug studies to the clinic.

WSU representation

ABRCMS is one of the largest communities of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Its yearly meeting allows thousands of students to share their research, network, and attend professional development sessions. The 2020 conference was held virtually due to COVID‑19 considerations and had the theme of “Visualizing a Better Future in STEM.”

WSU was well represented at this year’s ABRCMS. A total of 10 undergraduate students attended, with three making presentations and three WSU faculty members, including Ray Herrera, assistant dean of the WSU Graduate School and a CAS social studies alumus, served as judges.

Adapted from WSU Insider.