Make The Connection

March 2, 2018 | By Gopika Nair ’18

Maternal Methamphetamine Use

OWU Connection Enables Students to Conduct Research in New Zealand

Cindy Huynh ’19 (left) and Mollie Marshall ’19 used an Ohio Wesleyan Theory-to-Practice Grant to research on the effects of prenatal alcohol and methamphetamine exposure on infants in New Zealand.

Name: Cindy Huynh ’19
Majors: Genetics
Minors: Chemistry and Sociology
Hometown: West Chester, Ohio 

Name: Mollie Marshall ’19
Majors: Neuroscience and Psychology
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee


Theory-to-Practice Grant, “A Look into the Effects of Maternal Methamphetamine Use and Psychiatric Disorders on Infant Mental Health”

Huynh and Marshall traveled to New Zealand over the summer to conduct research on the effects of prenatal alcohol and methamphetamine exposure on infants. They worked with the Werry Centre and the University of Auckland for their research. During their time in New Zealand, Huynh and Marshall also interacted with Tom Palmer ’69 and his wife, Susan Palmer, who have donated $250,000 to support continued development of The OWU Connection curricular initiative.

Lessons learned

Huynh: “This Theory-to-Practice Grant trip to New Zealand was a truly unforgettable experience. When Mollie and I were writing the grant proposal and contacting Trecia Wouldes, the lead researcher at the Werry Centre, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

“I have always had a passion for infants, but I had never really witnessed infants with poor temperament and mental health. It was very hard to observe infants who were not happy and could not be soothed. Although this was a personal challenge for me, I had to grow and develop as an individual because I had to face that this is a growing issue throughout the world.

 “This not only strengthened my passion for caring for infants, but also for research. Such mothers and infants would not be able to get better without the ongoing research that the Werry Centre is conducting to find ways to improve intervention processes and promote good infant mental health.

 “Before traveling to New Zealand, I was used to being around young children who expressed positive mental health. Those infants displayed positive emotions by smiling, laughing, and being attached to their parents, which was drastically different from the infants who were affected by their mothers’ substance abuse. This experience took a large toll on me. It was very difficult to witness infants who could not control their extreme episodes of crying and could not be soothed by their own mothers, who often neglected their child’s [cries for] attention and mental health.

“In truth, watching an infant experience such pain made me question whether or not I wanted to pursue a career in health care. The extent of the hardships that those infants endured and are enduring [because of] their mothers’ actions troubled me. I realized that this was an opportunity, however painful, for personal growth.

“After careful thought, I realized that should not let difficult occurrences stop me from following my passions. Ultimately, this experience strengthened my passion toward pursuing a career in medicine so that I can help make an impact on similar children’s lives and their families.

“I am very grateful to OWU for such an eye-opening experience. This would not have been possible without OWU’s continued support.” 

Mollie Marshall ’19 (left) and Cindy Huynh ’19 presented research findings at Ohio Wesleyan’s Summer Science Research Symposium in the fall.

Marshall: “I am so thankful for OWU’s Theory-to-Practice Grant program because it has enabled me to participate in such a unique experience. This entire TPG process has proven to be especially beneficial, from writing a grant, to conducting research, to presenting research. ...

“Working with the Werry Centre and the University of Auckland has helped me find a passion for studying neurodevelopment and infant mental health.

“Infant mental health was not a field that I had heard much of prior to traveling to New Zealand. Since our return, I have made many connections and applications from what I learned in Auckland to what I am learning in the classroom.

“The need to help families form nurturing, stable, and supportive home environments to promote infant and child development is quite significant; therefore, moving forward, I wish to continue to pursue ways to help multi-risk families support and improve child development.

“For example, it is important to encourage families facing adversity to engage in preventive intervention therapies or parent-child interaction therapies. Another way to help families would be to advocate that the legal system allow a mother and child to remain together to form bonds that promote development rather than removing children from their homes.

“Additionally, we made special connections with the researchers in Auckland that will benefit us in finding future internships and research opportunities. Finally, participating in research poster presentations gave us experience in developing a research poster, speaking to audiences about our research project, and answering questions from students and faculty about our research.”

Why I chose Ohio Wesleyan

Huynh: “I chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan because of the academic opportunities that are unique to OWU. First of all, I was interested in the genetics major and [after I] learned more about the program, I thought that it was a good fit for me and my academic and career goals.

“Secondly, because of OWU, I am most passionate about the liberal arts education. It has allowed me to widen my views and perspective toward education. Due to this kind of education and my other experiences at OWU, I became a sociology minor because I enjoy combining both natural and social sciences.

“Finally, OWU has allowed me to combine my academic and research goals with traveling. The Theory-to-Practice Grant program is unlike any other, and my experiences in New Zealand would not have been possible if it was not for this program.”

Marshall: “I chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan because of the strong Neuroscience program here, the unique opportunities provided by programs such as The OWU Connection, and the positive and passionate atmosphere created by the students, faculty, staff, and administration on campus.”

My plans after graduation

Huynh: “After graduation, I would ultimately like to attend medical school to become a pediatrician, but have found a strong passion for research due to my OWU Connection experience. Therefore, I may be taking a gap year to do research before applying.”

Marshall: “Following graduation, I wish to continue on to graduate school and to pursue research in areas such as neurodevelopment or neurological disorders.”