As part of the training program, postdocs must be engaged in full-time research training, participate in weekly course work and seminars, define a training plan and achieve specific competencies during the year.
There are two formal courses offered as part of the CAAS training program. Each course takes place at CAAS Friday afternoons during the fall semester. The courses are scheduled in a recurring two-year sequence.
1) Psychosocial and Pharmacologic Treatment of Substance Use Disorders
Treatment and other intervention strategies are reviewed in this course. Prominent substance abuse treatment modalities are selected and a seminar is devoted to each treatment. As part of this review, the knowledge base upon which the treatment modality rests is critiqued, as well as the important research questions to be addressed concerning the treatment modality.
2) Etiology of Substance Use Disorders: Genetic, Neurobiological, Behavioral, and Cultural Influences
It is important that postdocs acquire a more general knowledge base regarding substance abuse and dependence beyond that confined to treatment. The training faculty have identified particular substance abuse specialty areas to be of particular relevance to alcohol and substance abuse treatment/intervention research. All postdocs need to have a working familiarity with these areas, irrespective of their own areas of particular expertise and interest. While these areas change over time, at present the most crucial are: epidemiology, neurobiology of addiction, genetics, co-occurring conditions, social/environmental influences, social learning models, and special populations. Background lectures are provided on these topics, led by faculty who are experts.
T32 Core Seminar Series
The T32 programs of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior (DPHB) and CAAS combine efforts to produce a comprehensive research seminar series each academic year. The seminar series is coordinated by faculty representatives from each of the T32 programs. All T32 and F32 fellows are required to attend.
There are multiple advantages to this combined seminar series. First, each postdoc is regularly exposed to the larger community of research trainees and faculty in the Brown community. Second, the breadth of experience of the larger faculty group allows more detailed exploration of diverse topical areas than could be provided by the faculty of the T32 progress alone. Third, the faculty can be more efficient in their teaching by eliminating duplication of effort across the training programs, and thus be available for more individual interaction with trainees. There is a strong commitment by senior research faculty to teach, encourage, and assist in any way possible research trainees, so that the important scientific work conducted by the Department continues to flourish.
Four distinct areas are covered in this seminar series: Grantsmanship, Research & Design Methods, Special Topics in Statistics, and Ethical Issues in Research. These seminars are described below:
1) Grantsmanship: Consistent with the program’s emphasis on the importance of funded research, a number of sessions of the core seminar series are devoted to the logistics and mechanics of obtaining grants. These include an overview of types of NIH grant mechanisms, sources of non-Federal funding, the process of submitting a grant, the NIH review process, and an introduction to the basics of grant writing.
2) Research & Design Methods: These sessions cover basic concepts and principles of methodology in clinical research, as well as several "design by example" sessions. The didactic sessions cover such topics as specific design issues in treatment research, measuring therapist adherence and competence, therapist effects, strategies for sample recruitment and retention, sample size and power determination, data management, basic computer methods for research management, and the uses of qualitative versus quantitative methods.
3) Special Topics in Statistics: This series provides fellows a chance to work on applied problems in statistics, and each year follows a semi-workshop format tailored to content requests from seminar participants. There are two bi-annual topics, which are taught with applied examples using both SPSS and SAS.
a) Advanced Topics in Regression Analysis: This six week biostatistical seminar series covers advanced issues in regression modeling. Specific topics include: regression diagnostics, dummy and contrast coding, statistical mediation and moderation, power analysis, and longitudinal extensions, such as Generalized Estimating Equations.
b) Multi-level Modeling for Longitudinal Data: Basics and Applications: This six week biostatistical seminar series covers basic concepts and applied issues in multi-level modeling. Specific topics include: iterative model specification, assessment of model fit, time variant and invariant covariates, and power analysis.
4) Ethical Issues in Research: Case-based discussions are led by members of the training faculty, and occasionally by outside experts. A minimum of 12 different sessions are provided and required over the two years of training. Topics covered during year one include: safety monitoring/withdrawal/ DSMB; internet research; the use of placebos in research; recruitment' coerced samples, and intellectual properties. Alternating years deal with topics including diminished capacities; authorship; misconduct in science; conflict of interest; peer review, and minors in research.
Each postdoctoral fellow will gain hands-on experience assisting with all aspects of the preparation of an NIH grant application, with the Primary Research Mentor as lead investigator. This process will familiarize the postdoc with the submission process from start to finish as a mentored training experience.
A key component to establishing an independent research program is securing grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and by doing so, scientists can contribute new knowledge to the base of substance-related dysfunction and treatment. As such, a core component of our training program is to teach postdocs how to write competitive NIH grant applications though a highly structured and intensive 16-week curriculum that spans didactic, practical, and mentored training opportunities. It should be noted, however, that submitting the grant proposal to the NIH is not part of the training experience. Opportunities for postdocs to submit grants from the School of Public Health are not guaranteed and are determined annually.
Each postdoc works one-on-one with their mentor(s) and presents their research plans at weekly research discussion group meetings. Discussions are devoted to ongoing analysis and feedback on the postdoc's grant proposal as it's developed. Each grant component is reviewed and critiqued by assigned training faculty, advanced postdocs, and the postdoc's faculty mentor(s). Grant sections (e.g., study aims, significance, innovation, rigor and reproducibility, approach, etc.) are written section-by-section and revised following the critiques. At the culmination of this experience, each postdoc completes an entire application that is reviewed by an internal "study section" and final feedback is delivered in a supportive, small-group meeting.
It is expected that postdocs will attend and participate in national meetings of alcohol and substance abuse research specialty societies. As the postdoc's own research reaches completion, it is also expected that the postdoc will make presentations of their research at these meetings. Some funding is available to support conference attendance.