Amy H. Newman

Born: August 22, 1958 | Buffalo, NY, US

Amy H. Newman  matriculated at Mary Washington College, majoring in chemistry and undertaking pre-medical coursework. Most of her peers were women and she found the college to be a very supportive environment; she decided to go to graduate school for medicinal chemistry. She did her postdoctorate with Kenner C. Rice at NIH, where she focused on opiate synthesis and benzodiazopene receptors. Newman then took a position at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research researching sigma receptor ligands; she collaborated with Jeffrey M. Witkin at NIH. At NIH she found a work environment supportive of her growing family and she began conducting research on analogues of benztropine-a dopamine transporter ligand like cocaine that does not have cocaine-like effects on the body. At the end of the interview Newman discusses balancing her family and career; she comments on science education in the United States; and she shares her frustrations with how the communication of science to the public leads to unrealistic expectations for drug development and with the process of drug development itself. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0655
No. of pages: 78
Minutes: 239

Interview Sessions

Hilary Domush
25-26 August 2009
National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland

Abstract of Interview

Amy Hauck Newman was raised in Buffalo, New York, one of two sisters. Her mother was an elementary school teacher; her father, a mechanical engineer. She enjoyed school from a young age and was interested in literature, poetry, and the sciences. She wanted to become a pediatrician, although her high school discouraged her from pursuing science. As an undergraduate at Mary Washington College, she majored in chemistry and undertook pre-medical coursework. Most of her peers were women and she found the college to be a very supportive environment; she decided to go to graduate school for medicinal chemistry. Graduate school was challenging, but her program was fairly streamlined, and she finished her degree in four years. Newman did her postdoctorate with Kenner C. Rice at NIH, where she focused on opiate synthesis and benzodiazopene receptors. Rice was a encouraging mentor, teaching her to write scientifically and to pursue collaborations. Since NIH had few opportunities for permanent positions, she then took a position at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. At Rice's suggestion, she began researching sigma receptor ligands; she continued to seek collaborators, including Jeffrey M. Witkin at NIH, which eventually led to the opportunity to begin a medicinal chemistry program back at NIH. At NIH she found a work environment supportive of her growing family and she began conducting research on analogues of benztropine—a dopamine transporter ligand like cocaine that does not have cocaine-like effects on the body. Newman's role as an NIH scientist is to develop the basic science of compounds in the hopes that pharmaceutical companies will continue to develop them into medications. Her lab also conducts research synthesizing amide analogues with an affinity for glutamate receptors, which also play a role in drug abuse. She has intentionally kept her lab small, though has maintained a vigorous research program; she has also taken on additional administrative responsibilities like committees. At the end of the interview Newman discusses balancing her family and career; she comments on science education in the United States; and she shares her frustrations with how the communication of science to the public leads to unrealistic expectations for drug development and with the process of drug development itself. Newman notes how public perceptions of addiction have changed, and hopes that will translate into more attention from pharmaceutical companies. She concludes her interview by reflecting on the types of mentors she has had, and her efforts to be a strong mentor. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1980 Mary Washington College BS Chemistry
1985 Medical College of Virginia PhD Medical Chemistry

Professional Experience

National Institutes of Health

1985 to 1988
Postdoctorate, Medicinal/Organic Chemistry, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
1990 to 1994
Senior Staff Fellow, Psychobiology Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program
1994 to 1999
Investigator, tenure-track, Psychobiology Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program
1999 to 2010
Senior Investigator and Chief, Medicinal Chemistry Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program
2008 to 2009
Associate Director for Tranlational Research, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program
2009 to 2010
Acting Deputy Scientific Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

1988 to 1990
Research Chemist, Applied Biochemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1980 to 1981

A. D. Williams Teaching Fellowship, School of Pharmacy, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University

1982 to 1983

Rho Chi Pharmaceutical Sciences Honor Society Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year Award

1984

Rho Chi Pharmaceutical Sciences Honor Society

1984

Watts Day Research Original Proposal Award

1985 to 1987

National Research Service Award, National Institute on Drug Abuse

1986

Committee on Problems of Drug Dependence Travel Award Scholarship

1994

Division of Intramural Research Scientific Director's Award, National Institute on Drug Abuse

1996

National Institutes of Health Director's Seminar Series Invited Lecturer

1998

Guest Editor of Medicinal Chemistry Research, Special Issue, v. 8 (1 & 2)

1998

HHS Special Service Award

1998

Sato International Memorial Award, Pharmaceutical Society of Japan

2004

National Institute on Drug Abuse Director's Award of Merit

2006

National Institute on Drug Abuse Director's Award for EEO, Diversity and Quality of Worklife

2009

Featured in National Institutes of Health: Women in Science by the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women's Health

2009

First recipient of the National Institute on Drug Abuse/National Institutes of Health Women Scientists Advisory Achievement Award

Table of Contents

Childhood and Undergraduate Education
1

Born in Buffalo, New York. High school science. Mary Washington College. Pre-med with chemistry major. Gender disparity among faculty.

Graduate Education
10

Interest in medicinal chemistry. Virginia Commonwealth University. Richard Glennon's lab. Networking. Postdoctorate at NIH with Kenner Rice. Extracurricular activities. Marriage.

Laboratory Career
28

Building a lab at Walter Reed. Tenure track position at NIH. Commuting. Dopamine transporter research. Role of government research in drug development. Research on glutamate receptors. Lab dynamics.

Administrative Responsibilities
53

NIH career path and structure. Deputy Scientific Director. Committees. Women Scientists Advisory Committee.

Reflections
61

Balancing childcare and family with career. Science education in the United States. Gap between public's expectations for drug development and reality. Changing perceptions of drug abuse. Mentoring and supportive networks.

Index
75

About the Interviewer

Hilary Domush

Hilary Domush was a Program Associate in the Center for Oral History at CHF from 2007–2015. Previously, she earned a BS in chemistry from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 2003.  She then completed an MS in chemistry and an MA in history of science both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her graduate work in the history of science focused on early nineteenth-century chemistry in the city of Edinburgh, while her work in the chemistry was in a total synthesis laboratory.  At CHF, she worked on projects such as the Pew Biomedical Scholars, Women in Chemistry, Atmospheric Science, and Catalysis.