Doctoral candidate wins research award at international conference

March 6, 2013 | Research, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences
By Casey Cheap

Stephanie Fowler, a doctoral candidate in the experimental psychology program, recently won a Junior Researcher Award for her outstanding work at an international placebo conference in Tübingen, Germany.



UT was represented at the conference, “Progress in Our Understanding of the Psychobiological and Neurobiological Mechanisms of the Placebo and Nocebo Responses,” by Fowler, Dr. Andrew Geers, professor of psychology, and Jill Brown, a psychology doctoral candidate.

Fowler was among 60 applicants worldwide vying for scholarships to fund participation in the conference. She was one of eight students who won, and the only one from the United States to receive a researcher award.

“The award was given based on research I conducted in the laboratory,” Fowler said. “We looked systematically at the variables that alter the effect placebos had during pain treatments. We want to know what makes a placebo most effective at reducing pain.”

The scholarship paid for travel costs so Fowler could present her findings at the conference held in January.

“The top researchers in the placebo field in the world were all packed into one auditorium,” Fowler said. “It was pretty amazing in that respect.”

Fowler presented data collected about five years ago from about 100 participants that took part in her award-winning research in placebo analgesics. The project was supported by a research grant from the National Institutes of Health awarded to Geers between 2006 and 2010.

Applicants who won the research award also had a five-minute question-and-answer session following their talks to the 250 conference attendees.

“I really had to think on my feet,” Fowler said. “The question-and-answer session was pretty intense. I had to answer questions based on people’s backgrounds. There was a diverse range of questions and backgrounds within the field at the conference.”

According to Geers, the award was very competitive.

“Graduate students from all over the globe applied for this award,” Geers said. “Stephanie did an outstanding job in preparing for this high level of competition and ultimately in beating out her competitors.”

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