Research Opportunities

Active Living Research with Monica L. Baskin, Ph.D.
Project Title: If You Build It, Will They Come? Interactive Effects of Social/Cultural Factors and the Built Environment on Physical Activity among African-American Youth

Background: African American youth residing in the South are at high risk for obesity and physical inactivity. A growing body of evidence suggests that persons living in activity-friendly environments engage in more physical activity (PA); however, access of public recreational facilities varies by neighborhood and demographic characteristics. Additionally, social/cultural factors may limit the use of activity-friendly built environments even when accessible.

Specific Aims: This study will: (1) identify population-specific social/cultural determinants of physical activity; (2) measure the interactive effects of social/cultural factors and the built environment on physical activity; and (3) generate recommendations for policy and environmental strategies to increase physical activity among African-American young adolescents residing in metro Birmingham, Alabama.

Methods: Participatory methods will be used to determine population-specific determinants of physical activity. A cross-sectional design will be used to evaluate our proposed urban ecological model which focuses on the interactive relationship between person (individual/interpersonal), place (social/cultural), and space (built environment) in determining youth physical activity. Multiple regression models will be used in data analysis. With the assistance of advisors from regional planning and local government, we will summarize study findings and generate policy recommendations for increasing LTPA among our target population.

Older Adults’ Cognitive and Everyday Function Research with Virginia Wadley, Ph.D.

Virginia G. Wadley, Ph.D., is a licensed medical psychologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at UAB within the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care.  She is Director of the Dementia Care Research Program of the UAB Center for Aging and Associate Director of the Edward R. Roybal Center for Translational Research on Aging and Mobility.  She recently completed an NIA-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center project, “Everyday Functional Performance in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) (Wadley/Ball, Co-PIs),” which documented longitudinal changes in cognitively demanding skills such as driving that are crucial for mobility and independence among individuals with MCI.  Dr. Wadley has collaborated on multiple grants and contracts evaluating novel training programs incorporating both physical activity and cognitive stimulation designed to prevent or delay age-related cognitive declines. She oversees cognitive testing for a number of research protocols, including the ongoing NINDS-funded Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study (REGARDS; George Howard, PI).  This study is following a cohort of over 30,000 American adults for incident stroke and for cognitive decline associated with vascular risk factors.  Dr. Wadley also is a Co-I of the NHLBI-funded Systolic Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) (Suzanne Oparil, UAB PI) and SPRINT MIND and SPRINT SENIOR substudies.  The substudies are examining cognitive and neural outcomes resulting from aggressively lowering blood pressure in hypertensive adults below current standard thresholds.

Research in Substance Abuse with Karen Cropsey, Psy.D., Associate Professor
Preceptor: Karen Cropsey, Psy.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, 401 Beacon Pkwy, 917-3786 x205.

Rotation Site: This rotation is at an off-site location and is located within the UAB Substance Abuse Program which provides substance abuse treatment and monitoring for community corrections substance abuse clients. This minor rotation is generally for 12-15 hours per week and can accommodate 1-2 interns per rotation.

Population: This research rotation in substance abuse involves projects working with criminal justice involved clients. Ongoing NIH projects include studies using combination pharmacotherapy and behavioral therapy for the prevention of opioid relapse, a new project using bupropion SR plus two different types of counseling for smoking cessation, as well as fMRI and MRS studies of nicotine and substance abuse. Other areas of research interest include HIV and HCV prevention as well as studies of preventing pregnancy in high-risk women. The intern will work as part of an interdisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students, research assistants, nurses, psychologists, and physicians as part of these research projects. Opportunities to gain experience in both clinical trials as well as neuroimaging is available. Further, existing large data sets are available for interns who are interested in publishing, including a dataset of over 24,000 individuals evaluated through the criminal justice system.

Expectations: The intern would be expected to participate in all aspects of the research process including data management, data analysis, as well as assessments and interventions with research participants. Mentoring in preparing publications from existing data sets and grant writing is available to transition the intern to a post-doctoral position in an academic medical setting.

Intern Schedules: Interns selecting this rotation should plan to spend the bulk of their day onsite with Dr. Cropsey. The research activities generally occur on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Free onsite parking is available.

Substance Abuse Research Training with Dr. Jess B. Milby
Since 2000 my colleagues and I have conducted 5 randomized clinical trials to develop, replicate and foster technology transfer of an effective behavioral treatment for cocaine dependence. We have also completed and published one cost effectiveness study on two of these trials. These studies were all performed in the context of a community services clinical setting and used a mix of University-trained and extant agency counselors and staff. Thus, these studies have valued added impact as effectiveness not efficacy research for evidenced base practice. Study series Homeless 2-4 and our Technology Transfer study, in collaboration with the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, have available databases for extensive data mining to address new empirical questions. Recent manuscripts based on this data are published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2), American Journal of Public Health (2), Drug and Alcohol Dependence (2), Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment (abstinence outcomes from our most recent, best controlled, and longest follow-up study), and The Millbank Quarterly. These can all be searched by using the first authors names of Milby, J.B. Schumacher, J.E., Kertesz, S, Vuchinich, R.

Recently interns have developed projects to either pilot possible enhancements to the intervention or mostly to pose and answer new empirical questions from the datasets. These efforts have resulted in poster, presentation, and publication co-authorships, and occasional first author publications and presentations, some with travel awards. These scholarly activities and accomplishments stem from early work with Dr. Milby and/or other colleagues in identifying realistic research projects that can be accomplished during the internship year. These are written up in a 1-2 page proposal as year long internship research projects to be approved by the Psychology Internship Training Committee (PTC) at the earliest possible PTC monthly meeting. Approval then grants the intern .5 days per week for the whole internship year to work with the sponsor on the identified project(s). The earliest and best start for these activities would have arriving interns contact one of these investigators before their arrival, read relevant publications, and begin a dialogue about a possible project before arriving on campus.