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photo of salim lab
Assistant Professor Samina Salim, third from left, is shown in her lab with graduate students Fatin Atrooz and Hesong Liu, undergraduate students Eisha Khan and Amber Ansari, and graduate student Naimesh Solanki.

Motivational Mentor

UHCOP's Samina Salim Earns UH Early Career Award for Undergraduate Research Mentoring 

UH College of Pharmacy's Samina Salim, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, has been honored by one of UH's most distinguished awards for research: the Early Career Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research.  

Salim becomes the second UHCOP faculty member in three years to win the Early Mentoring Award, including the inaugural honor bestowed to UHCOP Associate Professor Maria V. Tejada-Simon, Ph.D., M.Ed.

Salim has mentored 11 undergraduate students since joining the college in 2004, and 12 of her recent publications have been coauthored by undergraduates. Among the honors bestowed on her mentees are a travel award to present during the Council for Undergraduate Research’s “Posters on the Hill” at the U.S. Capitol; a Best Poster Award at the UH Undergraduate Research Day; and inclusion in the Best Poster Competition at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting. Her former mentees include several students completing their undergraduate degrees at UH or have now entered graduate and professional degree programs.  

"I have been very fortunate to have mentored an outstanding group of young men and women, whose vigor for science has been an immense source of inspiration for me," Salim said. "Their passion and energy keeps me motivated. It is my goal to engage at least two undergraduate students in research per year in my lab, and whoever walks into my lab must walk out with at least one peer-reviewed publication. But I ask for a lot of devotion, hard work and commitment."

Her lab is engaged in discovering novel mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders with the goal of identifying unique avenues for treatment. For a long time, abnormalities in traditional neurotransmitter systems, including the GABA and serotonin receptor systems, have been the focus of most anxiety research. A provocative concept away from these traditional theories is the involvement of oxidative stress in anxiety. Several recent reports, including  Salim’s own studies, support this concept. In fact, her lab was the first to report causal role of oxidative stress in these behaviors in rats. She also is the first to report that experiencing as well as witnessing traumatic events leads to anxiety-like and depression-like behaviors in rats.

Another goal of her research is to examine the neurobiology of comorbid occurrence of anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment and hypertension and to reveal molecular targets critical to the etiology of this highly prevalent comorbidity. Within this framework, her National Institute of Mental Health-funded research is currently focused on three areas: the role of oxidative stress in anxiety; connection between psychological stress, oxidative stress, anxiety, depression and hypertension; and the role of oxidative stress in synaptic plasticity and cognition.

"What began as a mere curiosity about research quickly developed into passion as I continued to learn and grow," said UH alumna Farida Allam, a former mentee of Salim who is now pursuing her pharmacy doctorate at Texas Southern University. Dr. Salim not only allowed to learn more by her continous faith and encouragement, but she was also able to make it enjoyable through her teaching methods.

"The amazing work ethics and confidence that Dr. Salim has instilled in me will stay with me forever as she continues to be one of my biggest role models. Her charismatic personality makes learning all the more exciting. It is hard to pinpoint what makes an excellent mentor, but it is easy to recognize one by her impact on her students. Dr. Salim is on the top of my list.

Another mentee, senior Health Education undegraduate student Amber Ansari, also praised Salim's mentorship.   

“Dr. Salim is an exceptional teacher and didn't only teach me the physical process, but she went above and beyond to explain the science behind the steps," Ansari said. "Her teaching methods were exceptional as she was able to take complicated research concepts and convey them in a manner that even an undergraduate student could comprehend.

"Strong work ethics, professionalism, dedication to mentorship, exceptional teaching skills, bright personality and her desire to care outside of the work environment make her who she is: an amazing professor and an excellent mentor."