intro biology group solves opioid crisis

THE LAB – A well-known feature of BIO-150 classes is that each class has its own theme and everyone must partake in an independent research project. However, one crew of student researchers in Professor Rachel Washington’s class went above and beyond.

Finding themselves bored with poking around crayfish to learn about the neuromuscular junction but keeping with the neuroscience theme, they ventured to resolve the Opioid Crisis. They explored addiction mechanisms, listened to stories of those afflicted by the crisis, and investigated top pharmaceutical officials. One student researcher, Shanae Jones ’20, explained her inspiration for the project, “I really wanted to impress our professor, while also trying to resuscitate Grinnell’s activist culture. I had just heard that the president declared the Opioid Crisis a national health emergency, and I asked myself: what can I do to help? So, I used our sample grant proposal for class to apply for NIH funding. They believed in our promise so much that they immediately approved us. After that we left campus to finish the project as soon as we could find someone driving to Des Moines with enough seats in their car.”

After settling into their new home at NIH headquarters, the students quickly established themselves by using the critical thinking skills they gained in tutorial to notice aspects of the Opioid Crisis which other researchers had never recognized. Within half a semester, they finished the project and solved the crisis. Last week, the president even sent out a tweet cancelling the national emergency.“I finally get why Grinnell requires a science class for the policy concentration”, reflected Jing Wu ‘18, a political science major. “I’ve never been good with laboratory procedures, but I was able to track down some pharmaceutical executives. I sold my lab notebook to the highest bidder, and I’ve secured myself a job at a think tank due to my attention to detail and willingness to put money before ethical research. I hope to write a memoir about my experiences one day to pay off my student loans.”

However, other students were jealous that they didn’t come up with the idea first. “I had no idea we could be so innovative in our project ideas. No one cares that my group brought the scientific world slightly closer to understanding Parkinson’s disease, or at least repeated the research that originally did that,” said Tyler Solis ‘19.

While Professor Washington was excited about her students’ initiative, she lamented “I still had to give them a D. They missed multiple class sessions. They were too busy presenting their research to the world to share their work with the rest of the BIO-150 students in our annual tradition. Sure, that one kid’s lab notebook might have been incredibly well kept, but he sold it instead of turning it in. I can’t give him credit for a missing notebook. They defiled a sacred tradition.”

Nonetheless, the students gained praise from president Kngtn himself: “They’ve truly done something extraordinary. They’ve upheld our proud tradition of social justice, and more importantly, they were able to make us look good. And profitable! But anyway, their grade serve to remind us that Grinnell students don’t care about grades, they’re here to learn,” Kngtn said.

It’s unknown what the research group is planning to do next, but rumors are that they’re on their way to end the War on Drugs. “First I need to learn mitosis, because BIO-150 doesn’t teach that,” said Jones.