NIDA Hosts Winners of Addiction Science Awards
The winners of NIDA’s 2018 Addiction Science Awards, part of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), presented their projects to NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow and other NIDA scientists recently. Following the presentation, the awardees toured the NIH campus and NIDA’s intramural program. The Addiction Science Awards are coordinated by NIDA as well as Friends of NIDA, a private group dedicated to furthering NIDA’s mission. ISEF is the world’s largest science competition for high school students.
First place went to Mia Yu and Daphne Liu from West High School in Salt Lake City for their project “Undetected Suicide: Classification of Undetermined Drug-Related Deaths Using Machine Learning Techniques.” The two students compared three machine-learning models to determine how well they could identify undetermined overdose deaths as actual suicides. Using existing machine platforms, they first plugged in overdose deaths already classified as either suicide or accidental. From there, they identified the most accurate computational model. They then used that model to measure the overdose deaths listed as undetermined. Using data from the state of Utah, the machine-learning technique determined that drug-related suicide deaths were underreported by 34 percent.
Second place went to Anil Tolwani, Rohan Arora and Venkat Krishnan, three seniors from the American High School in Fremont, Calif., for “LabTrak: A Micro-Telemetry Device for Modeling Mice Behavior.” The teens developed a well-tested and lightweight non-invasive tool to measure mouse movements during the preclinical phase of medication development. The tool is designed to send data straight to a computer or even a cell phone. Buprenorphine and ketamine were administered along with controls to enable the young scientists to measure the reactions of the mice to medications. They were able to develop a chip sensitive enough to determine the difference between specific types of mouse actions, including running, scratching, turning or head movements. The chip is even designed to “sleep” while the animal sleeps to preserve the battery.
Winning third place was Saadh Ahmed, a senior from Northview High School in Johns Creek, Ga., for his project “Development of a Drug-Likeness Rule for Natural Products.” In the early stages of drug development, scientists seek out compounds that are similar to others that show promise. While standard rules exist for identifying similar synthetic compounds, “drug-likeness” rules for natural compounds have not proven to be as nuanced or accurate. The 17-year-old student began with an analysis of a database that contains drug-like natural compounds and evaluated them for patterns and commonalities. Using qualitative and quantitative screening techniques, he developed streamlined measures for identifying multiple natural compounds that could be worthy of study for specific health conditions.