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Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

Powell School Psychology Professor Wins $1.5 Million Training Grant

Denise Hien, professor of psychology and principal investigator, TRACC.Professor Denise Hien to lead major drive to develop "top-tier addiction researchers."

What is the optimal way to cultivate diversity in a new generation of scientists? This is a question Denise Hien has devoted countless hours to considering. Hien, a Powell School psychology professor and leader in the field of trauma and addiction, ultimately devised a multi-pronged solution. It involves ongoing mentoring and direct professional guidance on issues that can make or break a young researcher's career. It also focuses on cultivating promising young students earlier than is common practice.

Hien's approach is at the heart of a major new $1.5 million training grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The highly sought-after and rarely awarded "R-25-level” grant is one that the National Institutes of Health reserves for its most pressing priority issues. The grant enables Hien, as lead investigator, to build a multidisciplinary team of leading faculty and researchers, not only from the Powell School's renowned clinical psychology and neuroscience programs, but also from City College's Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education and the Columbia University Medical Center.

Exceptional "Pipeline"

The grant award recognizes not only CCNY's exceptional and diverse student body, but also the prominence of the department. Its legacy in the field is undisputed, and it continues to draw and foster top faculty. Additionally, psychology is CCNY's largest undergraduate major, offering an exceptional pipeline of potential scientists. 

The program, known as TRACC (Translational Research Training in Addictions for Racial/Ethnic Minorities at City College of New York and Columbia University Medical Center) will train 20 substance-abuse researchers over five years. Trainees will be selected from a pool of faculty-nominated CCNY graduate psychology students along with students in the Sophie Davis BS-MD program. Training will begin in the spring of 2014.

Tailored Training

Every TRACC student will have an individualized training plan: there will be an initial assessment to determine students’ strengths and areas for growth on relevant topics and tasks, such as statistics and grant writing, and students will then meet weekly with high-caliber mentors. The program includes feedback sessions, seminars, a journal-reading club, and opportunities to host and attend conferences where they have opportunities to build peer relationships with other researchers. A hallmark of the program is a one-week summer institute that will cover fundamental professional skill-sets, such as data management. 

“What Denise is proposing is a novel way of enhancing what the psychology department has been doing terrifically well for a long time,” notes Teresa Lopez-Castro, supervising clinical psychologist in the department's Trauma and Addictions Project. 

The full TRACC team gathered for their first meeting on October 31, 2013.