DEVELOPMENTAL ALCOHOL RESEARCH
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry
Gale A. Richardson, PhD
Brooke S.G. Molina, PhD
DEVELOPMENTAL ALCOHOL RESEARCH
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY
GRADUATE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Gale A. Richardson, PhD
Brooke S.G. Molina, PhD
The primary task of postdoctoral trainees is to conduct developmental alcohol research. They work in a specific area and develop expertise that will prepare them for a career in alcohol research. At entry into the DART Program, postdoctoral fellows define with the Directors and their mentors an area of research interest and expected research products (e.g., preliminary data collection; first-authored manuscripts) that can be completed within two years. Fellows are encouraged to start developing a grant proposal by the end of their first year of training. These applications are often for mentored career development awards or R-series awards. Trainees are also supported in writing applications for other types of funding including small grants, F32 applications, and foundation awards (e.g., NARSAD awards).
The typical postdoctoral fellows selected are those with a Ph.D. and a demonstrated strength in research methodology and statistics within their field of expertise. They focus on learning how to apply these skills to alcohol research within a developmental framework. In general, these fellows have doctorates in fields such as psychology or epidemiology. They may take courses in development, advanced statistics, or behavioral and psychopharmacological research. Table C illustrates the typical components of the training program.
|Table C. Required training components|
|Year 1||Year 2|
|Research Activities||Construction of Individual Development Plan (also evaluated at 6 months)||Evaluation of Individual Development Plan (also evaluated at 6 months)|
|Mentored research with primary mentor||Mentored research with primary mentor|
|Identification of secondary mentors||Collaboration with secondary mentors|
|Identification of required skill development (e.g., course or workshop training)||Further refinement of skill development (e.g., course or workshop training)|
|Preparation of manuscripts||Preparation of manuscripts|
|Preparation for grant application||Submission or revision of grant application|
|Career Development Activities||Seminar on Addictions Research (SOAR)||Seminar on Addictions Research (SOAR)|
|Career and Research Development (CARD) Seminar||Career and Research Development (CARD) Seminar|
|Research Society on Alcoholism; additional relevant scientific conferences||Research Society on Alcoholism; additional relevant scientific conferences|
|Dept. of Psychiatry Annual Research Day||Dept. of Psychiatry Annual Research Day|
|Responsible Conduct of Research activities||Responsible Conduct of Research activities|
All trainees are required to attend the Seminar on Addictions Research (SOAR). The twice monthly seminar consists of trainee and faculty presentations meant to provide the opportunity to present planned, ongoing, or completed addictions research and receive feedback and discussion. Job talks may also be presented. SOAR attendees include DART T32 trainees, K awardees in addictions research across departments, and advanced graduate students (i.e., conducting dissertation work). Required attendees also include junior faculty supported by the NIDA-funded K12 PittCATS program, directed by Dr. Kraemer. The seminar creates a core cross-departmental addictions training community that builds knowledge and networking pertinent to addictions research and supports individual training and career development goals pertinent to addiction-focused careers.
All DART fellows are also required to attend the Career and Research Development (CARD) Seminar. Trainees participate in weekly didactic and writing sessions. Didactic sessions address research conduct topics such as mentor/mentee relationships, scientific writing, the NIH review process, and observing a mock IRG grant review. There are also two 8-week “Writing Block” sessions, in which trainees submit drafts of their developing grant proposals for peer and faculty review. CARD Seminar participation also facilitates postdoctoral networking within the Department, as well as provides peer support.
Trainees are also required to participate in the Department of Psychiatry Research Day, an annual oral and poster presentation day for Psychiatry residents, research fellows, and junior faculty, during which trainees present their work to a multidisciplinary audience of physicians, other clinicians, and basic and applied researchers. They also participate in small group sessions facilitated by a faculty member on topics related to career development and novel strategies for research.
A new initiative at the University of Pittsburgh available to trainees is the Bridging Connections in Addiction Research (BCAR) network, whose mission is to promote addiction research by providing networking and collaborative opportunities among faculty and trainees throughout the University. BCAR advances collaboration through monthly meetings, where attendees present current research and have opportunities for structured and unstructured networking.
An additional option for research training is provided by the Institute for Clinical Research (ICRE) at the University of Pittsburgh, which has developed customized degree programs and courses that emphasize the multidisciplinary nature of clinical and translational research to meet the needs of biomedical researchers. For example, trainees can pursue a Certificate in Clinical Research that provides them with skills required by clinical investigators, such as an understanding of research design, epidemiologic methods, biostatistics, outcome measurement, and ethical and regulatory principles of research involving human subjects.
Additional courses that are relevant to DART trainees are described below and are recommended depending on the trainee’s background and area of interest. The Seminar in Addiction course, offered in the Psychology Department by one of our training faculty, Dr. Sayette, is required of all trainees with no previous alcohol background. These offerings highlight the personalized nature of the DART training.
EPID 2310 Psychiatric Epidemiology (Dr. Richardson) is an introduction to the field of adult psychiatric epidemiology. It reviews methodological approaches in psychiatric epidemiology, and the epidemiology of specific psychiatric disorders including AUD and Substance Use Disorders.
EPID 2340 Pediatric Epidemiology (Dr. Richardson) reviews studies of the incidence and prevalence of physical, psychiatric, and developmental disorders in children and adolescents and the risk and causal factors involved in pediatric disorders. Special attention is given to developmental and methodological issues in assessing children’s health.
EPID 2400 Behavioral Factors in Disease (Dr. De Genna) reviews epidemiological and psychological methods of studying behavioral factors as risk factors and as determinants of rehabilitation in selected diseases. Emphasis is on current public health problems and theoretical issues under debate in the field including development and its relation to behavior.
PSYCH 3245 Seminar in Addiction (Dr. Sayette). This course examines the research literature on alcohol use and abuse. A guiding principle in this course is that alcoholism is a heterogeneous disorder that is multiply determined. Topics range from acute effects of alcohol in social drinkers to issues related to prevention, assessment, and treatment.
PSYCH 2090: Structural Equation Modeling. The goal of this course is to provide students with a strong set of fundamentals that will allow them to flexibly apply SEM to answer diverse questions with a wide variety of data. Core topics covered include conceptual introduction to latent variable models, fundamentals of covariance structure models (e.g., data requirements, identification, etc.), measurement models and confirmatory factor analysis, path analysis, full SEM, multiple group analysis, measurement invariance, and the basics of longitudinal models (e.g., cross-lagged panel designs, growth curve models).