What’s New at NIDA
Notice of High-Priority Training Areas
NIDA recently published a Notice describing High-Priority Research Areas for T32 Training Grants. T32 Training Grants have a vital role in supporting graduate students and postdoctoral scholars within the field of substance use and addiction. NIDA has a robust training program with a broad range of scientific topics related to substance use and addiction; however, gaps remain in some research areas. The following three areas were identified for further emphasis:
- Translational Science: The goal is to move from discovery science to the development of medications and devices (including regulatory science).
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Drug Use/Addiction: The goal is to foster a dynamic workforce equipped to use novel approaches to address the intersection of HIV and substance use, prevention, treatment, and cure, including a special emphasis on addressing health inequities.
- Data Science: The goal is to prepare trainees to apply data science strategies including computational modeling, machine learning, analysis of large data sets, and artificial intelligence to substance use questions.
Applications within the scope of one or more of these areas are encouraged. Strong applications would include a team of mentors with diverse expertise. Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the NIDA Training Office.
Review a full list of all active NIDA T32 programs.
Data Science Training at NIDA
Fostering data science research has been one of NIDA’s longstanding goals. Data Science Research at NIDA houses additional detailed information on funding announcements, related notices, research project grants, and upcoming events. Grantees in the field of substance use are invited to contact the Data Science Program Officer, Dr. Susan Wright, for additional information and advice.
Dual training in substance use and addiction research and in an emerging field such as data science presents its own challenges and opportunities. Drs. Hannah Cooper and Lance Waller at Emory University lead one of NIDA’s data science‒focused T32 programs, entitled “Training in Advanced Data Analytics and Computational Sciences to End Drug-Related Harms,” or TADA. We recently had the opportunity to interview these training leaders for an overview on their experience training new scholars on data science within the field of substance use.
Dr. Cooper serves as the inaugural Rollins Chair of Substance Use Disorders at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. One of the joys of her job is that she gets to co-lead the NIDA-funded T32 program TADA with Dr. Lance Waller. TADA is designed to train the next generation of scientists to develop transformative approaches to end the substance use disorder (SUD) crisis by applying advanced data science methods to analyze big data (e.g., geospatial data, sociometric network data). In her role as the T32 co-director, she collaborates with Dr. Waller, their fellows, their Executive Committee, and other advisors and faculty to:
- Recruit outstanding future scientists into this program.
- Develop the training program
- Ensure that their trainees launch careers that advance data science approaches to studying and ending drug-related harms, often in ways that she could never have imagined herself.
Dr. Hannah Cooper’s Background
We asked Dr. Cooper to share details about her background and current research training goals. She said, “I have dedicated my career to advancing the health of people who use drugs, by analyzing and seeking to intervene in the social determinants of drug-related harms. My training set me on this path. I earned my B.A. in English Literature, and my master’s and doctoral degrees in social epidemiology. It may sound odd to meld a B.A. in English with public health, but my degree in English supports my qualitative analyses of contextual influences, and my analyses of the perceived pathways through which these influences shape health. In addition, I write every day—whether proposals or manuscripts or emails—and so my English training is a daily strength. My social epi training has taught me how to conceptualize the social determinants of health, and rigorously measure their possible influences on drug-related harms.
I chose to complement my social epi training with a NIDA-funded post-doctoral fellowship. Enriching as my social epidemiology training was, it did not give me sufficient opportunity to work closely with scientists who were studying harm reduction: back when I was doing my graduate training, there were few harm reduction scientists at public health schools. I was fortunate to earn a spot at the NIDA-funded Behavioral Science Training program at the National Development and Research Institute (now at New York University), where I was mentored by some of the leading harm reduction scientists in the world.”
NIDA: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to become a scientist? What drew you to the STEM field and particularly substance use/data science research? Were there any events or individuals who inspired you throughout your professional journey?
Dr. Cooper: This is a great question. Back when I was in the 6th grade, my school offered all middle school students the chance to take an occupational skills test, to help us sort out what careers we might consider pursuing. My friends’ test results suggested that their particular skillsets matched well with careers in medicine, or engineering, or the arts. My test results, in contrast, indicated that I was a poor match for every conceivable career currently known to humanity—there was literally a blank space in the report’s field where possible careers were to be listed. I like to think that that was because back in 1982 neither social epidemiology nor harm reduction really existed as careers, but perhaps I am wrong.
Perhaps like many people, my interest in harm reduction emerges from the intersection of history and biography. I grew up in New York City in the 1980s, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic brought people who use drugs out into an extremely derogatory spotlight. At the time, some politicians and others espoused the position that people living with HIV/AIDS deserved to die. That narrative, though, did not sit well with me, because for generations, many people in my extended family had lived with, and died from, substance use disorders. I started volunteering in syringe service programs in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and it felt like home.
I often analyze big data—typically administrative data—in my research because they are among the best sources of information that we have to assess place characteristics, which are crucial social determinants of health. I mine Department of Revenue data to capture the density of alcohol outlets; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on the locations of HIV testing and counseling sites to assess spatial access to relevant HIV care continuum services; and Federal Bureau of Investigation data on arrests to capture various dimensions of the “War on Drugs.” It is difficult for people to report on features of the places where they live, because we often cease noticing features that are familiar to us. Administrative data can help operationalize place-based constructs that are beyond our ken.
NIDA: What is your current approach to training the next generation of SUD/data science researchers?
Dr. Cooper: I think my job is to help this next generation of scientists identify the most pressing questions of the day, and ensure that they have the tools—or can create the tools—to start to answer them. There are so many ways that students can learn which questions matter. They can examine their own lives and those of their communities. They can develop partnerships with affected populations and work with them to identify problems. Dr. Mindy Fullilove tells students to read the newspaper every day to understand the social factors that are shaping health moment by moment in the present, and I heartily endorse her recommendation. And of course the scientific literature abounds with ideas for new research. I try to train students to meld all of these approaches together, over the course of their careers, to identify vital research questions.
These questions, however, need to be matched with scientific tools that can help generate answers with some level of validity. I think my role here is two-pronged: (1) to help students learn about, and think critically about, existing approaches, and (2) to help students create better approaches, by matching their critical appraisals of our existing approaches with innovative ideas to improve them.
NIDA: What are the barriers and incentives to combining data science and SUD research?
Dr. Cooper: As noted above, the main incentive is that administrative data are a remarkable source of information on social determinants of health. Administrative data are not, however, a robust source of information on patterns of drug use because of anti-drug stigma. Because of this stigma and related laws, people try to conceal their drug use from surveillance systems and from routine administrative sources (e.g., hospitals and the vast electronic medical records that they generate). The consequences of reporting drug use can be exceptionally damaging—people can lose their jobs, their housing, and their children.
In addition to suppressing self-reported drug use, stigma warps reporting of the systems that are the bread and butter of administrative analyses. To illustrate, the Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) gathers hospital data on all discharges across the state. This could be a remarkable data source to track drug-related harms, but GHA requires that hospitals strip all drug-related discharges from their reports prior to releasing them to GHA. This omission then results in dramatic under-reporting of drug-related harms in the state.
NIDA: What has been the most challenging obstacle you have had to face throughout your journey to becoming an addiction scientist, and what have you done to push through?
Dr. Cooper: I think my field has suffered because the racial/ethnic composition of our scientists is far whiter than the composition of the public. We have excluded generations of BIPOC scientists from our ranks, and that exclusion has diminished us, by limiting the full scope and richness of the ideas that we exchange, the questions we pursue, and the interventions we develop. I try as hard as I can to leave a legacy of mentees who are as diverse as the public we serve, and to partner with colleagues to alter structures within public health that perpetuate white supremacy.
NIDA: What advice do you have to new trainees who are considering careers in this field and the T32 mechanism?
Dr. Cooper: We need your brilliant minds and your passion to address some of the most pressing public health problems of our time. T32s are one avenue to ensure that you are connected to mentoring teams, scientific infrastructure, and funding support to launch your remarkable career.
NIDA thanks Dr. Cooper for her heartfelt responses and hope you enjoyed hearing about her journey as much as we did.
Congratulations to the NIDA 2021 Diversity Supplement Awardees and Candidates!
We would like to congratulate the awardees of NIDA Diversity Supplements for fiscal year (FY) 2021! The goal of the Diversity Supplement is to help bridge postbaccalaureates, graduate/medical students, postdoctoral students, and early-stage investigators from underrepresented backgrounds into independent research careers in substance use and addiction. During the diversity supplement training period, trainees develop the tools and preliminary data needed to be well-positioned to apply for National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. In addition, NIDA brings together all diversity supplement recipients once a year to participate in a 2-day professional development workshop where they present their research, network, meet Program Officers, receive guidance on NIDA research priorities and funding opportunities, as well as listen to other valuable presentations. See below for a full list of FY2020 Diversity Supplement awardees. Congrats again to all!
NIDA Diversity Scholars Network Program
Are you an early-stage investigator (ESI) planning to apply for NIH funding? Interested in meeting NIDA Program Officers and other experts in the addiction research field? The 2022 NIDA Diversity Scholars Network (NDSN) Program is accepting applications! The NDSN is a comprehensive professional development program aimed at enhancing the funding success of underrepresented ESIs. The program consists of two separate meetings with an interim grant application development period. The Part I meeting includes research proposal feedback, discussion of relevant NIH funding mechanisms, the NIH review process, application strategies, as well as other professional development presentations. The Part II meeting consists of a mock review study section, discussion with the review panel on common grant writing pitfalls and strategies, and additional application development and resubmission presentations. The deadline to apply is January 14, 2022.
To learn more about the NIDA Diversity Scholars Network Program, please contact Ms. Isabela Lopes or visit the NDSN webpage for more information. The application for the 2022 program can be accessed through the NDSN webpage.
2022 NDSN Application (Doc 118KB).
Administrative Supplements to Support Addiction Science and Related Neuroscience Pilot Research Projects
NIDA issued a call for supplement applications to the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Program grants to support underrepresented minority (URM) ESIs through a Notice of Special Interest (NOSI). NIDA is the lead federal agency supporting scientific research on drug use and its consequences. The goal of this NOSI is to increase the number of independently funded URMs in the areas of substance use, addiction, and neuroscience research. One way that NIDA is building infrastructure as well as the substance use and addiction biomedical workforce is through partnerships. Please contact the Program Officers for this funding opportunity, Drs. Angela Holmes (NIDA) and Nathan Stinson (NIMHD) if you have any questions regarding your research proposal.
NIDA Diversity R25 Program
We encourage investigators to consider the following research education opportunity to enhance diversity: Providing Research Education Experiences to Enhance Diversity in the Next Generation of Substance Use and Addiction Scientists (R25 Clinical Trials Not Allowed), PAR-20-236.
The overarching goal of this R25 program is to support educational activities that encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, to pursue further studies or careers in research. Equipment, supplies, travel for key persons, and other program-related expenses may be included in the proposed budget.
Contact Dr. Albert Avila, Ph.D. if you're interested in applying for this research workforce–building award.
Additional Receipt Cycle for T32 Grant Applications
The purpose of this new Notice, NOT-DA-21-088, is to inform all T32 applicants that effective immediately, NIDA will now accept T32 applications for two cycles per year.
Application Submission Dates: January 25 for non-AIDS applications and May 7 for AIDS applications; and May 25 for non-AIDS applications and September 7 for AIDS applications
Any questions related to this notice should be directed to Dr. Lindsey Friend.
Research Supplements to Promote Re-Entry and Re-integration into Health-Related Research Careers
The Re-Entry Supplement Program is accepting applications! The goal of this program is to provide support for a mentored research training experience for individuals with high potential to re-enter or re-integrate into an active research career, after an interruption for family responsibilities or other qualifying circumstances. The supplement grants are intended to provide these scientists with an opportunity to update or extend their research skills and knowledge and prepare them to re-establish their careers in basic biomedical, behavioral, clinical, translational, or social science research.
For additional information on NIDA’s participation in the Re-Entry Supplement Program, contact Lindsey Friend at (NIDA_Training@nih.gov).
Did You Know?
The NIH UNITE initiative is hosting 14 listening sessions and invites all NIH stakeholders to attend and provide unique perspectives in an effort to achieve racial and ethnic equity. UNITE was established to identify and address structural racism within NIH-supported entities and the greater scientific community. Key stakeholders across the full biomedical research community, who work and serve in diverse settings and hold various roles, and who partner and collaborate with research teams, have important experiences and insights to share. The upcoming listening sessions are one component of UNITE’s efforts to listen and learn. See NOT-OD-22-027 for the upcoming listening session dates and times to attend, and register.
Employment Opportunities at NIDA
NIDA’s Division of Neuroscience and Behavior (DNB) is recruiting for a Program Officer position within the Chemistry Pharmacology Physiology (CPP) Branch.
The Program Officer is expected to develop and oversee a grant portfolio in the rapidly growing field of chemistry and pharmacology of drugs of abuse. The Branch supports all research related to the chemistry and pharmacology of drugs of abuse, including the structural dynamics of receptors, computationally based drug design, intracellular signaling mechanisms, early drug discovery of treatments for addiction, natural product chemistry, and innovative mechanisms of drug delivery. Required areas of expertise include chemistry, drug design, biophysical and computational approaches, and biochemical and neurobiological mechanisms of substance use disorders.
Candidates interested in applying for this position should send a cover letter and curriculum vitae to Dr. Sam Ananthan via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
DNB is also seeking a dynamic motivated individual to serve as a Program Officer to develop and manage the HIV and Substance Misuse Portfolio.
DNB develops and supports an extramural research portfolio that will advance the understanding of the genetic, chemical, neurobiological, and behavioral mechanisms of addictive drugs and their long-term consequences. The Division supports research on the intersection of HIV and substance use disorders. Drug use is not only a vector for the entry of the virus into the circulation, but it can also facilitate brain entry by affecting blood‒brain barrier permeability. Additionally, it is associated with risk-taking behavior that increases vulnerability to HIV and other infections. Importantly, substance use can contribute to the course of the disease through independent effects on immune function, by affecting cells that serve as reservoirs of the virus in the brain, and through epigenetic mechanisms that regulate latency. Although HIV and addictive drugs can have independent effects on cell biology that contribute to brain diseases, the combination of HIV and drug use can have unique consequences that affect processes such as pain, neurocognitive function, and aging. The basic research supported by DNB provides opportunities to illuminate HIV biology and central nervous system biology and may provide potential avenues for treating the co-occurrence of HIV and substance use disorder.
The Program Officer will:
- Assist with the development and coordination of a comprehensive research portfolio at the intersection of HIV and substance use disorder.
- Provide substantive input into the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of HIV-related research for DNB.
- Identify opportunities and problem areas, research gaps, and relevant program needs, and make recommendations regarding HIV-related research.
- Organize workshops and scientific panels at conferences.
- Serve as DNB liaison with the NIDA HIV Research Program to coordinate funding plans and research opportunities.
The ideal candidate will possess a Ph.D. in a branch of the biological sciences and ideally will have expertise in neuroscience and HIV. Interested candidates should send a curriculum vitae to Myriam Selmane (email@example.com).
Stay Up to Date!
Interested in upcoming NIDA meetings and events? See a full list of what’s coming up.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation. Visit the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding webpage for the latest information and guidance about programs in place to help with NIH projects. This webpage provides information about proposal submission, award management, human subjects, clinical trials, animal welfare, and peer review, and lists funding opportunities related specifically to COVID-19. We encourage you to check this webpage often for updates and don’t hesitate to reach out to your Program Officer or our office if you have questions.
Are you subscribed to the NIDA ODHD listserv?
We encourage you to subscribe to the NIDA ODHD listserv. Please spread the word about this listserv! Emails from Dr. Albert Avila, Director of the Office of Diversity and Health Disparities (ODHD) are sent out to subscribers a few times a month containing announcements about training and career development.