Tamara J. Phillips, Ph.D., Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience at OHSU and Senior Research Career Scientist at the Portland VA Medical Center, has been awarded the 2010 Distinguished Scientist Award by the International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society. The award, bestowed by her peers, honors her lifetime achievements in research on the genetic contributions to alcohol and drug sensitivity through studies that have mapped and identified specific genes affecting risk for alcohol and methamphetamine abuse.
“Dr. Phillips’ work for many years has been crucial to our understanding of how genes and environmental factors participate in the transition from initial to longer term use of drugs like alcohol,” said John Crabbe, Ph.D., who presented her with the award in May at the society’s annual meeting in Halifax. “She was quick to point out that she was the youngest awardee ever!”
Her research on genetic contributions have centered on studies in mice of stimulant responses to drugs of abuse and their tendency to become more pronounced upon repeated drug administration. Her work has identified the neural basis for the disruption of a key element of the stress axis that accompanies chronic alcohol consumption. Furthermore, she showed that this disruption was normalized by an experimental drug that is slated for clinical trials and could prove useful for treating patients whose relapse to drinking is triggered by stressful events (e.g., those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Dr. Phillips earned her Ph.D. at SUNY-Albany and did postdoctoral work at the Institute of Animal Behavior at Rutgers and the Portland VA Medical Center/OHSU before joining the faculty as Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience at OHSU in 1988. She is the past President of the International Society of Behavioural and Neural Genetics. She has been honored previously with the Young Investigator Award from the Research Society on Alcoholism in 1991, the John A. Resko Faculty Research Achievement and Mentoring Award from OHSU, four other Teaching Excellence Awards from OHSU, and the Oregon Brain Institute’s 2008 Festival of Lights Award for her research on stress axis modulation by drugs of abuse. In addition to her active participation in the Portland Alcohol Research Center, she is Scientific Director of OHSU’s Methamphetamine Abuse Research Center. She gave an invited talk on her work at the Oregon Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience meetings in March and will be giving a Plenary Address at the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism meetings in Paris in September, 2010.