ASU senior named recipient of Josiah N. Moore Memorial Scholarship from On Q Financial

April 12, 2022

On Q Financial Inc., a national home mortgage lender, has selected senior Royce Perez as the recipient of the Josiah N. Moore Memorial Scholarship, representing the ASU Native American Alumni chapter. Perez is from Mariano Lake, New Mexico, and graduates this spring with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

“I feel very blessed that On Q Financial selected me as a recipient for this scholarship,” Perez said. “I’ve worked hard to receive excellent grades, and I’m appreciative that my work is being recognized through this scholarship.” ASU senior Royce Perez poses with Sparky at Old Main. Download Full Image

As a child, Perez was always intrigued with how things worked, which inspired him to pursue an engineering degree at ASU, after transferring from a small college in New Mexico. As a member of Diné (the Navajo Nation), he plans to eventually use his education to help implement new ideas that will improve natural resource usage in remote areas.

Throughout college, Perez has been involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) and Chi Epsilon, the National Civil Engineering Honor Society. This semester, he was involved in organizing and hosting the AISES National Conference in Phoenix.

“This scholarship could not have come at a better time, as I’m finding out that my senior engineering courses are requiring specific software and computer systems,” he said. “This scholarship will help me make the necessary purchases to complete my educational journey.”

“During his collegiate career, which includes the academic rigors of civil engineering as a major and participation in co-curricular activities, Royce has worked to support himself throughout his academic journey,” said Alyssa Bradley ('15 BS), vice president and treasurer of the Native American Alumni chapter.

“Royce has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to his coursework as well as identifying opportunities to extend his classroom experience in applied settings and leadership positions. From a Native American Alumni chapter perspective, one of our primary missions is to assist current Native American students in a variety of ways, so we are very excited to be able to help support such an outstanding person and student as Royce. Providing scholarships makes our responsibility as chapter members very fun and fulfilling.”

Group of people sitting on ASU Old Main steps

The On Q Financial team and staff of the ASU Alumni Association stand with Josiah N. Moore Memorial Scholarship recipient Royce Perez (right).

On Q Financial recently has taken on a commitment for scholarship support for a variety of schools and diverse groups.

“At On Q Financial, we understand the importance of a well-educated workforce and the increasing financial needs of many college students today,” said Juan Rodas, executive vice president at On Q Financial. “Through the scholarship selection process, we were deeply impressed with Royce’s commitment to his studies and attaining his degree as a first-generation student. Also his passion to someday serve the critical and unique needs of tribal communities is inspiring.

“Scholarships like this take a bit of the weight off of students. With our corporate headquarters in Tempe, ASU was a natural place to reach out for help in finding the right students for our first awards.”

Christine Wilkinson, ASU Alumni Association president and CEO, talks about the growing need for financial support for students: “One of our primary initiatives at the Alumni Association is to assist students, especially those with financial need. When community partners like On Q Financial step up to provide scholarships, we’re appreciative of their desire to help students reach their academic goals.

"On Q Financial believes in supporting students to build a well-educated workforce. We look forward to working with Juan Rodas and his team at On Q to continue supporting Sun Devil students so they can achieve their dreams of graduating from ASU and starting their professional careers.”

Learn more about On Q Financial and its scholarship programs.

Macey Sierka

Student assistant, ASU Alumni Association

Why some people become addicted and others don’t

New ASU professor works to untangle genetic contributors to opioid vulnerability

April 12, 2022

The opioid epidemic remains lethal, with nearly 100,000 Americans dying from opioid overdoses in the last year

Only about 10% of people who take opioids become addicted, and some of them struggle more than others to quit. Why some people become addicted and others don’t, and why some can quit and others cannot, is a major focus of addiction research.  Neuroscientist Jonathan Gewirtz is a new professor in the ASU Department of Psychology Neuroscientist Jonathan Gewirtz, who recently joined ASU as a professor in the Department of Psychology, is searching for genetic markers of vulnerability to opioid addiction. Download Full Image

“Some factors underlying differences in vulnerability to opioid addiction could be related to genes or the way that genes are regulated across people. My lab is working to identify genetic predictors of vulnerability,” said neuroscientist Jonathan Gewirtz, who recently joined Arizona State University as a professor in the Department of Psychology.  

The Gewirtz lab is part of a nationwide translational research group studying the role genes play in opioid addiction. The Genetics and Epigenetics Cross-Cutting Research Team is sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and includes labs that use animal models and labs that study people.

The search for genetic markers of vulnerability to addiction

Genes can be thought of as instruction manuals for the body, and a recent study from the Gewirtz lab examined whether opioid addiction changes gene expression, or how the body interprets those instructions. The research team focused on the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex because drugs of addiction change both the connections among neurons and the overall function of this brain area. 

“We are screening for gene expression associated with opioid addiction vulnerability in brain areas, like the dorsomedial PFC, known to be dysregulated by addiction,” Gewirtz said.

Opioid use changed the expression of gene networks that are important for synaptic signaling — how neurons talk to each other — and for how the brain can rewire itself. 

The study also compared changes in gene expression across the female and male sex. Only 35% of genes impacted by opioid use were shared across the sexes, highlighting the importance of including both males and females in addiction research.

“These results underscore how important it is to understand how gene expression is critical to vulnerability to opioid addiction,” Gewirtz said. 

The biology of emotions

Gewirtz’s work on addiction is part of a larger goal to understand how the brain processes emotional states, and to contribute to translating findings from animal models into therapeutic targets for people. 

“I am interested in how emotional states are represented in the brain, how the brain induces them or is induced by them,” he said. 

Much of his research has focused on animal models of fear and anxiety, both of which are related to mental illness and drug addiction. 

Science writer, Psychology Department