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Westminster Student Presents Research at National Conference

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Posted on Monday, November 18, 2002

Ericka Peterson, a senior neuroscience major at Westminster College, recently presented her undergraduate research at the annual Society for Neuroscience Conference in Orlando, FL.

Peterson presented her research, "Induction of Compulsive Features in Maternal Behavior via Chronic Quinpirole Administration in the Rat."

"The study models human obsessive-compulsive disorder in animals, and serves to advance the model that this disorder is not anxiety-based, but rather is connected to the neural systems that control innate behavior," Peterson said.

"Ericka, who is doing her senior thesis under my direction, received the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) travel award in recognition of her contributions to this research project," said Dr. Alan Gittis, professor of psychology at Westminster College. "It was one of only ten national undergraduate travel awards for outstanding research."

Julie Tomnay, a 2002 Westminster College graduate who currently attends the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, originated the project. "Ericka assisted in the data gathering for that project, and is continuing the project for her senior thesis," said Gittis.

"Both Dr. (Sandra) Webster and Dr. (David) Gray (professors of psychology at Westminster) have assisted me in designing the experiments necessary for my research," Peterson said. "Dr. Gittis has mentored me as I carry out the study. He has been an inspiration to me as I learned about the science of the mind.

"The Westminster education I have received has been very through, especially within my major," continued Peterson. "The liberal arts foundation, as well as the individual attention, has made this a stimulating learning environment. It has prompted me to continue my education, and pursue a career in research and medicine."

Several Westminster alumni also including: Daniel Miller, 1984 graduate and associate professor at Carthage College; Christopher Meade, 1990 graduate and post-doctoral student at the University of Tennessee, Memphis; Lauren Burhans, 1997 graduate and graduate student at the University of Illinois; Brent Witgen, 2000 graduate and lab technician at the University of Pennsylvania; Loretta Grate, a 2001 graduate; Kathleen Morgan, a 2001 graduate and research technician at the University of Pennsylvania; and Amanda Kopp, a 2002 graduate and lab technician at the University of Pennsylvania.

Peterson is a daughter of Christine Peterson, 601 Benita Dr. E., Mingo Junction, Ohio, and a graduate of Catholic Central High School.

For more information, contact Gittis at (724) 946-7358 or email or Peterson at (724) 946-2935 or e-mail