Research Recap for Jan. 10: Behavioral Neuroscience conference presentations & Anthropology grad's work to support housing

January 10, 2022

Western’s faculty and students are engaged in exciting research and scholarship across a variety of fields. Each week, Western Today will share short summaries of the latest developments in scholarly work at the University. Interested in reading in-depth stories about science and research at Western? Go to Gaia, the university's online journal of research, discovery and scholarship, and subscribe (it's free) to that site by clicking the "Follow" button. Want more research news? Follow @WWUResearch on Twitter.

Peter Miterko

Peter Miterko graduated from Western with an master's degree in anthropology in 2017 and was one of WWU's Outstanding Graduate Students. He specialized in participatory action research with a focus on permanent supportive housing.  

One method Miterko used in his thesis research is photovoice, an innovative, multimodal approach to qualitative research that uses photography to promote positive social change. Miterko conducted semi-structured interviews, asking participants to take photos and tell stories about those photos to show their experience and identify issues most important to them. Miterko gathered the participants' photography to use as data, but the photos were also displayed in a downtown Bellingham gallery, then later in the permanent supportive housing program where Miterko’s research was originally conducted. 

Miterko credits WWU Associate Professor of Anthropology Sean Bruna with much of his growth and success in his graduate research. Bruna’s Medical Anthropology Lab was an important space for Miterko, who says, “I want to stress that Sean really helped me get through the ups and downs in my research—he pulled me through.” During his time at WWU, Miterko notes that “really everybody in the anthropology department was very accessible and supportive.” 

Miterko also says his MA in anthropology made him industry-ready, and he transitioned into working locally in homelessness and housing after graduation. He now works for the Skagit County Health Department on their housing team, which has fortunately been able to procure extra funding for housing projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, one non-profit he works with, Skagit Connections, recently procured a mobile shower for individuals who don’t have access to that resource. 

Not only has Miterko's time in grad school at WWU been practical in terms of his employability, but his research has received a lot of attention as well. In March 2020, the journal Housing and Society published an article from Miterko's thesis, titled “Resident identified strengths and challenges of project-based permanent supportive housing program implementation in a small metropolitan county.” A second article from his thesis, "Reframing sense of community with photovoice: perspectives from residents of a permanent supportive housing program who have experienced chronic homelessness," is forthcoming in the Journal of Community Practice. 
Like many social sciences, anthropology serves as a snapshot into the human experience. Making anthropology relevant and practical has been part of Miterko’s mission. In his current role, he supports local homeless and housing service providers in Skagit County. Most recently, he's been a part of the county’s emergency response to recent flooding in the area.  

Behavioral Neuroscience conference presentations

Two groups of students from Western’s Behavioral Neuroscience program students presented their research virtually at the 2021 Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Conference in November.

Taylor McGillis (she/they) and Hannah Stevenson (she/her) work in WWU Assistant Professor of Psychology Josh Kaplan's Lab. They presented their research, "Developmental Exposure to Cannabidiol (CBD) via Intraperitoneal Injection or Passive Inhalation is Without Substantial Consequences on Locomotor Behavior, Anxiety, and Spatial Learning in Mice" Their research focuses on the developmental effects of CBD using passive exposure techniques through vaporization chambers, in an effort to better understand how CBD affects the brain for children or pregnant mothers.

Students Becca Marx, Talia Frost-Belansky, and Kyle Griffin present their work on compounds that can fight sugar addiction. They worked on their research alongside a group of peers and under WWU Professor of Psychology Jeff Grimm's supervision, studying mGluR2 agonist LY379268 and how it reduces sucrose seeking, taking, and motivation in male and female rats. The researchers conclude that the generality of the anti-taking, -seeking, and -motivation effects of LY379268 across male and female rats support further evaluation of this and other compounds that modulate synaptic glutamate as potential anti-addiction pharmacotherapies.