Research Training on Drug Abuse

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Behavioral Neuroscience Program
Predoctoral Training in Research on Drug Abuse 
*Supported by a training grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, T32-DA07244-21-25.

Updated: August 2013


The Predoctoral Training in Research on Drug Abuse Training Grant provides interdisciplinary, graduate training in research areas related to drug and alcohol abuse. The objective of this program, now in its 5th, 5-year renewal period as a NIDA-supported training grant, continues to be the preparation of predoctoral students for research careers. Students are drawn from the Department of Psychology and the Curriculum in Neurobiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Training laboratories are located at several sites throughout the University, including the Departments of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Psychiatry as well as laboratories affiliated with the Neurobiology Curriculum, and the Center for Alcohol Studies.

The environment offered by UNC/Chapel Hill is particularly well suited for training in research related to drug abuse. First of all, the faculty includes a core of individuals whose research and teaching activities provide a broad spectrum of high quality research training opportunities. These include behavioral pharmacology and neurobiology of drugs of abuse, immunology, genetics and cognitive and behavioral factors in addiction.  Secondly, interaction among investigators provides a strong collaborative environment for training students. Students receive background training in the basic neural and behavioral sciences. More focused training related to drug abuse comes from a variety of interdepartmental courses, seminars and extensive laboratory research. Students who complete this program also receive training in teaching and communication, and are provided many opportunities to develop their professional leadership skills.

Upon completion of their training, students are prepared to pursue a career related to drug abuse in academic, research, or clinical settings. In the last 25 years, this program has provided doctoral training for approximately 70 students and many of those students now hold either teaching, research, or clinically-oriented positions related to drug abuse.

Interdisciplinary Focus

The drug abuse research training program draws on faculty, resources, and students from the department of Psychology and the Neurobiology Curriculum. Students concentrate their first years of training on completing requirements within their home department or curriculum. In addition, students in the drug abuse research training program take several interdepartmental courses and seminars related to the area of drug abuse. Students receive training in formal course work, laboratory experience, communication skills, and ethics as well as postgraduate preparation involving grant writing, and leadership development programs. Students receive their research training in a variety of settings, providing them with a well rounded learning environment.

The program is designed to strike a balance between course work, research, and the development of communication skills. Students are strongly encouraged to articulate their knowledge and research findings through scholarship, publication, presentation at professional meetings, and teaching.

Interdisciplinary Seminars Available to Training Grant Students

  • Neurobiology of Ethanol and Drugs of Abuse
  • Behavioral Pharmacology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience and Drug Addiction
  • Pain, Analgesia, and Analgesics
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Current Topics in Neuroimaging

Financial Support for Predoctoral Students

The Predoctoral Training in Research on Drug Abuse program provides its students with a variety of financial support. Student’s full tuition, fees, and health insurance are covered by the program. In addition, a competitive stipend is provided as well as funds for travel to conferences and professional meetings.

Core Faculty and Research Areas

Boettiger, Charlotte, Assistant Professor, Psychology; and member of Curriculum in Neurobiology. Ph.D., University of California/San Francisco.  Area of Research: Cognitive factors in addiction, with a focus on neuroimaging data.  Website:

Carelli, Regina M., Stephen B. Baxter Distinguished Professor, Psychology; Co-Associate Chair, Psychology; and member of Curriculum in Neurobiology  
Ph.D., Rutgers University, 1991.  
Area of Research: Behavioral neurophysiological investigation of brain reward processing.  

Curran, Patrick, Professor, Psychology and Director, L.L. Thurstone Psychometric Laboratory.  Ph.D., Arizona State University, 1994.  Area of Research: Structural equation modeling, growth curve analysis and adolescent substance use.  Website:

Daughters, Stacey, Associate Professor, Psychology.  Ph.D., University of Maryland at College Park, 2005. Areas of Research: Addiction, distress tolerance, depression neuroimaging, HIV/AIDS, and behavioral activation therapy.  Website:

Dykstra, Linda A., Kenan Distinguished Professor, Psychology and Pharmacology.  
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1972.  
Area of Research: Behavioral and pharmacological investigations of opioid analgesics, drugs of abuse, and other compounds.  

Fuchs Lockensgard, Rita, Associate Professor, Psychology; and member of the Curriculum in Neurobiology.  
Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2000
.  Area of Research: Role of associative learning and memory in cue-induced relapse to drug seeking.

Hodge, Clyde W., Professor, Psychiatry and member of Curriculum in Neurobiology.  
Ph.D., Auburn University, 1991.  
Area of Research: Neurobehavioral pharmacology and pharmacogenomics of addiction.  Website:

Hussong, Andrea M., Professor, Psychology; and Director, Center for Developmental Science.  Ph.D., Arizona State University, 1996.  Area of Research: Developmental studies of the social and familial influences associated with adolescent substance use and comorbid disorders among high risk youth.  Website:

Johns, Josephine, Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry.  
Ph.D., University of Georgia, 1988.  
Area of Research: Effects of drugs of abuse on maternal behavior and aggression, and the effects of prenatal exposure to drugs on offspring development and behavior.

Jones, Hendree, Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology; Director, UNC Horizons Program. Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University – Medical College of Virginia, 1997.  Area of Research: Treatment for pregnant women with substance use disorders.

Lysle, Donald T., Kenan Distinguished Professor and Department Chair, Psychology.  
Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 1986. 
Area of Research: Psychoneuroimmunology, the effects of conditioning on lymphocyte reactivity.

Picker, Mitchell J., Professor, Psychology.  
Ph.D., Western Michigan University, 1984.  
Area of Research: Behavioral pharmacology, drug tolerance and cross-tolerance. Website:

Reissner, Kathryn, Assistant Professor, Psychology.  Ph.D., University of California at Irvine, 2006. Areas of Research:  How chronic self-administration of cocaine leads to modifications in cellular physiology and neuronastrocyte communication; in turn, how these modifications may contribute to long-term drug seeking.

Stuber, Garrett, Research Professor, Psychiatry.  Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2005.  Areas of Research:  Neural circuitry of addiction and neuropsychiatric disorders.  Website:

Thiele, Todd, Professor and Director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program, Psychology; and member of Curriculum in Neurobiology.  
Ph.D., Kansas State University, 1995.  
Area of Research: Neurobiology of alcoholism, employing both genetic and pharmacological manipulations.

Wightman, Mark, Kenan Distinguished Professor, Chemistry. Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1974.  Area of Research: Neurochemistry, electrochemistry. Website:

Wiley, Jenny, Assistant Professor, Psychology.  Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, 1991.  Areas of Research:  Neuropharmacology, specifically, adolescence, animal models of psychiatric disorders, antipsychotics, preclinical psychopharmacology, behavioral pharmacology, cannabinoid pharmacology, and drug discrimination.  

What Our Graduates are Doing

The predoctoral drug abuse research training program has been the stepping stone to careers in many different fields related to drug abuse research. Recent graduates of our program have gone on to hold research and teaching positions at major universities, smaller liberal arts schools, and research centers. Numerous graduates of the program have gone on to receive external funding and are making contributions of their own in a variety of areas relating to drug abuse research. Graduates of the predoctoral program in drug abuse over the last 10 years are currently working at the following sites: