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Amy H. Newman

  • Born: August 22, 1958, Buffalo, New York

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0655
Interview Dates: August 25, 2009 and August 26, 2009
Location: National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland
Interviewer: Hilary Domush
No. of pages: 85
Minutes: 239

  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.  


1980 B.S., Chemistry, Mary Washington College
1985 Ph.D., Medical Chemistry, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University

  Professional Experience

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health

1985 - 1988

Postdoctorate, Medicinal/Organic Chemistry, under Kenner C. Rice

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

1988 - 1990

Research Chemist, Applied Biochemistry

National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health

1990 - 1994

Senior Staff Fellow, Psychobiology Section

National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health

1994 - 1999

Investigator, tenure-track, Psychobiology Section

National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health

1999 - present

Senior Investigator and Chief, Medicinal Chemistry Section

National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health

2008 - 2009

Associate Director for Translational Research

National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health

2009 - present

Acting Deputy Scientific Director


1980 - 1981

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

1982 - 1983

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


Rho Chi Pharmaceutical Sciences Honor Society


Watts Day Research Original Proposal Award

1985 - 1987

National Research Service Award, National Institute on Drug Abuse


Committee on Problems of Drug Dependence Travel Award Scholarship


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


National Institutes of Health Director’s Seminar Series Invited Lecturer


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


HHS Special Service Award


Sato International Memorial Award, Pharmaceutical Society of Japan


National Institute on Drug Abuse Director’s Award of Merit


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


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


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

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

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 Interviewers

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

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