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Innovative doctoral program will emphasize interdisciplinary substance use research

February 27, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Under a newly announced doctoral program in substance abuse research, four PhD students annually will be eligible for fully paid tuition and fees as well as a $20,000 yearly stipend for research and teaching. Leaders at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego are seeking to train a generation of individuals who will conduct interdisciplinary research efforts of potential interest to public health, medicine, government service and a variety of other fields.

“Substance abuse in all its forms impacts societies globally,” says Maria Luisa Zúñiga, PhD, associate professor at the San Diego State University School of Social Work and co-director of the Joint Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use, which will admit its first students this fall. “We want to make real inroads on reducing the impact of substance use.”

The PhD program will focus on research that assesses substance use risk and that creates intervention programs to prevent or mitigate high-risk behaviors. Funding for the tuition assistance and stipends, offered for up to four years for students, is being made available from the San Diego State University Division of Academic Affairs and College of Health and Human Services. “We are fortunate to have this,” says Zúñiga.

The application deadline for the fall cohort of four students is March 2, but Zúñiga says that applicants have a month beyond that date to submit supporting materials. More information is available via the San Diego State School of Social Work website.

Establishment of this program marks the 14th joint doctoral program of the two universities, joining programs in fields such as public health and clinical psychology. The planning of this particular effort was a decade in the making. “This program is the first of its kind,” co-director Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, who heads the UC San Diego Global Health Initiative, said in a news release in reference to the research-focused program.

The schools are requiring applicants to have a research background, although they can come from a variety of current work settings ranging from behavioral health to public health to law enforcement. Zúñiga, who has done extensive work in Latin America, hopes to encourage students to pursue research opportunities abroad as well as in the U.S.