Investigating the Co-use of Nicotine and Opioids




Associate Professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry

Project Summary

This past semester I was fortunate to have the opportunity to continue my research in the lab of Dr. Mariella De Biasi. Although my project took a few slight turns due to the pandemic, as a scientist, I was fully equipped to adapt to and embrace the challenges and change. 

The current opioid epidemic and concurrent rise in e-cigarette popularity made it critical to further investigate the relationship between these drug classes. My project involved using mice as an animal model to develop a paradigm for nicotine and opioid co-drug dependence. This involved exposing mice to nicotine or vehicle vapor each day via e-cigarette delivery. After this pre-exposure period, vapor exposure continued while mice were given continuous access to 2 bottles, one that contained morphine, an opioid, and another that just contained saccharin, a sweet liquid. Finally, vapor exposure was discontinued while these 2 bottles remained available for an additional 2 weeks. My experience working on this project was enriching and informative. I learned various scientific techniques, including preparing solutions, utilizing the e-cigarette vapor delivery system, and cryosectioning/staining/preparing brain slices. I also immersed myself in data analysis and learned how to interpret and assess the data and results I gathered in the lab. 

Concurrently taking neuroscience classes such as ‘Drugs, Brain, and Mind’ while conducting my research made my time in the De Biasi lab extremely rewarding and I am grateful for the opportunity. I grew as both a student and scientist and realized my passion for research. I am excited to pursue a career in the field of academia and to continue asking and answering important questions. I could not have done this without the constant support of my research mentors, Mariella and Kate, and the generous support of CURF and the Goldfeder Family Undergraduate Research Grant.