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Life in the Lab: Senior Has Summer Internship at UC's Medical School

Brittney Fey's Experience Opens Doors for Future WC Interns

September 14, 2009

Brittney Fey poses with University of Cincinnati professor Andrew Norman, Ph.D., after she presented the winning poster of her research at the conclusion of her internship. (BELOW) Brittney is pictured running the hurdles this spring as a member of the College's track & field team.

Brittney Fey poses with University of Cincinnati professor Andrew Norman, Ph.D., after she presented the winning poster of her research at the conclusion of her internship. (BELOW) Brittney is pictured running the hurdles this spring as a member of the College's track & field team.

Wilmington College senior Brittney Fey spent her summer surrounded by rats and cocaine — not in the squalor of an inner-city crack house but in a pristine University of Cincinnati laboratory.

Fey, who resides in Pleasant Plain and is a 2007 graduate of Blanchester High School, is a chemistry/biology major with a minor in mathematics.

She conducted research on cocaine addition with the Department of Pharmacology and Cell Biophysics in UC’s College of Medicine. Her paid, 10-week internship was part of the American Society for Pharmaceuticals and Experimental Therapeutics Summer Fellowship Program.

She was one of five pharmacology summer interns selected from 300 applicants representing colleges and universities from around the country. Fey, who also studied pharmacology when not in the lab, found the research compelling.

“It was fascinating to see the rats get hooked on cocaine. We injected the lab rats with certain antagonists,” she said. “The main goal of the research is to find treatments for cocaine addition.”

The rats were introduced to the euphoria-inducing drug and soon developed such a taste for cocaine they quickly learned how to get high at will with the substance readily available for their use.

“Seven rats acquired self-administration within two weeks,” she wrote in her research abstract titled “Using Cocaine Self-Administration to Measure Antagonist Affinity in Rats.”

Fey noted the research should help determine the value of existing anti-psychotic drugs for cocaine addition. The rodents were not killed in the experiments, she said.

The summer research opportunity was not in Fey’s original plans of pursuing a doctor of medicine degree after graduation. Now she is seriously considering studying for a Ph.D. in pharmacology.

“It’s a complete switch from my original interest,” she said. “Also, I wasn’t planning on doing an internship this summer but this opportunity sounded so interesting. I wanted to expand my view — and this experience certainly did that.”

Nancy Roszell, WC’s director of institutional research, was instrumental in Fey having the research opportunity. Faculty at the University of Cincinnati that knew Roszell from her doctoral program there contacted her about finding a candidate for the research internship.

“They told me they would like a student from a small school like Wilmington,” she said, noting that faculty in WC’s Biology and Chemistry departments gave glowing recommendations for Fey. Also, Roszell was a reference and indicated a willingness to mentor Fey in preparation for the internship, which the student wholeheartedly embraced.

“Our faculty said Brittney would give 110 percent,” Roszell said.

Their glowing accolades proved a harbinger of things to come.

“By the third or fourth week into the summer, I was getting feedback that Brittney’s work effort was extraordinary,” Roszell said. “They ran this like a graduate student experience — the bar was raised high — and she did herself proud.”

If there were any question on how her work would stack up beside that of interns from such larger schools as the University of Texas – Austin and Oklahoma University, it was answered when Fey won first place for her research poster presentation.

“They said I had an interesting topic and I explained the figures on the graphs well,” she said.

Indeed, Fey’s UC adviser, Andrew Norman, Ph.D., encouraged her to apply for the medical school’s pharmacology Ph.D. program, which she plans to do after taking the GRE examination in October.

Also, UC told Wilmington College officials that, based on Fey’s outstanding internship, they will gladly take a WC student intern for next year’s summer research program.

“They are enamored with Brittney,” Roszell said. “Her future looks more than bright. She earned herself a pathway and opened the door for other Wilmington students, but she set the bar pretty high.”

Fey also had words of appreciation for the key role Roszell played in her success.

“I’m so thankful for her,” she said. “She helped with my application, took me to UC’s open house (for applicants), read my research paper — she knew my whole project.”

Fey followed her older sister, Nikki Fey, a 2008 WC graduate, to Wilmington College. She played a year of soccer and is starting her third year in track and field, where Fey is a versatile athlete that competes in the sprints, hurdles, high jump and pole vault.

Fey also is works in the Math Center and is a member of the American Medical Students Association.

“I’m glad I picked a small college,” she said. “I’ve taken advantage of working with professors on a one-to-one basis. It’s been an exciting three years and, after this summer internship, I’m especially looking forward to my senior year.”