Undergraduate Research Program

Madi Bruner


Major: Psychology

Mentor: Dr. Antony Abraham & Dr. Charles Chavkin – Pharmacology, Rebecca Esquenazi & Dr. Ione Fine – Psychology

Contact: mbruner7@uw.edu

Current research project: Alcohol use disorders: Using a gelatin consumption paradigm to explore kappa/mu opioid receptor compounds


Madison is an upcoming Senior, graduating in Spring 2022 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology. During her time at UW, she has been conducting research in pharmacology exploring various kappa and mu opioid receptor compounds to aid with the treatment of various addiction disorders. She has simultaneously been conducting psychological research involving visual prostheses to provide insight into the visual system—aiming to aid individuals who are visually disabled. She hopes to attend a graduate program and pursue a career as a clinical psychologist, utilizing her anthropology minor to provide care to underprivileged and underrepresented groups.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My work through the department of pharmacology seeks to discover what mechanisms and chemical signaling is used with various kappa and mu opioid receptor compounds, and how we can manipulate the mechanisms of a specific drug to aid with withdrawal and associated symptoms of alcohol use disorder. My psychology lab aims to understand the brain mechanisms involved in the visual pathway in order to better understand how we can create and curate visual prostheses for blind or nearly blind individuals. The Fine Lab works with 20/20, sighted individuals, studying the degree of adaptation of their visual pathways over time, and seeks to apply this knowledge to the engineering of retinal prostheses.



When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
Coming to UW, I knew that there were a plethora of research opportunities, and I always wanted to get involved, but was not sure how or when to do it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started more seriously planning my path to graduate school and building a cohesive list of extracurriculars, which resulted in starting two remote positions at two different labs. Upon my return to Seattle, I started working in my pharmacology lab and held a full time position in the Summer of 2021. Although obtaining these positions took time, effort, and lots of emails, my experiences at both the labs I participate in have been overwhelmingly positive, teaching me various skills integral to my career and path through academia.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
I would tell all students to persevere and embrace rejection! Although the process may be tedious and disheartening at times, there are always labs looking for young, eager students, regardless of background, year, or major. Undergraduate research allows students to explore topics outside of their intended discipline, giving them a chance to obtain skills they may not otherwise have the opportunity to acquire. Students involved in research are making very real contributions to a large variety of fields, with the possibility of discovering new things and helping a wide range of issues and people. Don’t be shy, get involved!