A $3.2 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will fund the continuation of Penn State's Prevention and Methodology Training (PAMT) program, which focuses on training the next generation of scientists in preventing substance use and addiction.
Effective strategies to prevent and reduce substance use and addiction across the life span are desperately needed. Tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and other illicit drug misuse cost the U.S. more than $810 billion each year and cause severe harm to individuals, families and communities.
The PAMT program trains graduate and postdoctoral researchers from various disciplines who are interested in devoting their careers to substance use prevention. Trainees learn through an apprenticeship model, working closely with two highly qualified faculty mentors with expertise in substance use — one mentor specializing in prevention science and the other in cutting-edge statistical methods. They also receive formal and informal training in responsible research conduct, professional skills, rigor and reproducibility of their research, and health equity.
Anyone interested in an National Institutes of Health (NIH) post-doctoral fellowship in substance use prevention and methodology is encouraged to visit the PAMT website and apply via the Penn State jobs website as soon as possible, as applications are currently being reviewed.
"We invest heavily in our trainees," said Stephanie Lanza, PAMT co-director and director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State (PRC). "They participate in our labs, shadow us, write papers with us, and learn to write grants to the NIH."
According to Lanza, the ideal PAMT candidate will be interested in adopting innovative statistical methods in their work, and that "at the end of the day, they have to want to make a difference in the impact of substance use and addiction."
Established in 2005, PAMT has a powerful alumni network of more than 80 scientists who have gone on to research and teaching positions at top universities and research institutes around the country, said Lanza.
Lanza added that Penn State's Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse enhances the opportunities available to PAMT trainees, as they have access to a strong, interdisciplinary network of faculty in fields including biobehavioral health, human development and family studies, psychology, sociology and criminology, nursing, geography and engineering.
The training program is co-directed by Lanza and Jennifer Maggs, professor of human development and family studies with lead training roles held by Rina Eiden, professor of psychology, Gregory Fosco, associate professor of human development and family studies, and Jeremy Staff, professor of sociology and criminology. Co-administrators of the training program are Meg Small, PRC director of social innovation and assistant research professor of health and human development; and Damon Jones, associate professor of health and human development.
Maggs noted that "our enhanced interdisciplinary leadership team will allow us to expand on the high-quality training available to the nine predoctoral and four postdoctoral scholars funded each year through the PAMT training program."
"Our hope is to help train the next generation of substance use and addiction researchers and ultimately improve health and well-being in society," Maggs said.
Housed in the PRC, the program is funded by NIDA with additional support from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, the College of Health and Human Development, the College of the Liberal Arts, and the Social Science Research Institute.