The senior from Yankton, South Dakota, who's majoring in biological sciences, chemistry and physics is one out of just 60 students chosen from 300 applicants nationwide to participate in the 20th Annual Posters on the Hill meeting in Washington.

“This particular event that Riley is attending is a highly prestigious happening. It’s an opportunity for undergraduate researchers from across the country to present their findings directly to members of Congress,” said Mick Watt, Ph.D., associate professor of basic biomedical sciences at USD and Paulsen’s advisor. “For them to see an undergraduate like Riley who can express how meaningful it is to her and why her findings have such important implications for the field, they can see the value in continuing research at the undergraduate level.”

Paulsen conducted her research through the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction, which is a National Institutes of Health-funding program directed by the USD Center for Brain and Behavior Research. Her work discusses how teenage bullying can lead to psychiatric disorders in adulthood, such as substance abuse. Paulsen hopes to develop more effective pharmaceutical therapies for treating addictive disorders associated with this severe adolescent stress.

“This research is important because the rate of bullying is so rampant in adolescents,” Paulsen said. “I don’t think we are addressing it properly as a society -- to fix that and send a message that there are problems other than the experience itself, and that it leads to problems in their future.”

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