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Friday, September 22, 2023

Academics & Research

Student’s work receives national recognition

Nutrition senior Nada Sarraj’s research will take her to Capitol Hill, where she will present her findings along with her mentor, research assistant professor Samina Salim. | Steven Oster/ The Daily Cougar

Nutrition senior Nada Sarraj was selected to exhibit her scientific research on Capitol Hill this month as a part of the annual Posters on the Hill event.

“It feels really good to be able to be recognized for something I did and worked really hard at and to able to present it in a nationwide conference,” Sarraj said.

Sarraj will present her abstract, entitled “Moderate Treadmill Exercise Prevents Oxidative Stress-Induced Anxiety in Rats.”

“Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million people in the U.S.,” Sarraj said. “Although effective treatments for anxiety disorders are available, a vast majority of anxiety patients experience side effects from these medications. The failure to treat these patients costs $42 billion a year in lost productivity. Therefore, improving the understanding of mechanisms of anxiety is important.”

To test her theory, Sarraj injected two groups of rats with a drug called L-Buthionine-(S,R)-sulfoximine, or BSO, which increases stress levels. One of these groups was then subjected to moderate treadmill exercise before being reevaluated.

“After several weeks of treatment, we measured the amount of oxidative stress markers in the serum, urine and brain tissue,” she said. “As expected, the group of rats that was injected with BSO alone did in fact increase anxiety-like behavior, unlike the group that was subject to BSO and exercise.”

Samina Salim, research assistant professor with the Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, served as Sarraj’s mentor, prompting her to compete in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.

“Nada convinced me that she was genuinely interested in my research on anxiety and would appreciate the opportunity to learn,” Salim said. “I was impressed with her persistence, determination and curiosity.”

Salim agrees that the problem of anxiety in humans is a pertinent one.

“The topic of anxiety is very timely, as more and more Americans are being diagnosed with anxiety disorders,” she said, “and the frustration in the field is [the] lack of responsiveness to the traditional anti-anxiety medications available in the market.”

Both Sarraj and Salim are confident that their trip to Washington, D.C. will be a successful and productive one.

“I expect this experience to not only reinforce her ambition for a career in research but also to [let her] interact with her peers and broaden her perspectives as she decides to choose her career path,” Salim said.

All of the enthusiasm and work put into this research has sparked a potential lifelong interest for Sarraj, who said she would love to pursue a future in pharmacy after her graduation next year.

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