Postdoctoral Traineeship in Substance Use Disorders Treatment and Services Research

US News Best Graduate Programs 2018

This National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded postdoctoral program is offered by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Our program is one of the few that trains scientists in treatment and service research. Scholars work with a preceptor to design and implement studies on treatment of substance use disorders (SUD), including nicotine dependence. Scholars also select a specific area of focus for independent research. Current research interests of faculty include trials of efficacy and effectiveness of psychosocial and pharmacologic treatment of drug abuse, including:

  • Tobacco dependence
  • Innovative methodology, including internet based studies
  • Treatment of complex patients in innovative settings
  • Diagnostic techniques and research on treatment tailored for HIV-positive substance users with psychiatric and medical disorders
  • Research on provision of services to substance-using populations
  • Instrument development in substance use treatment

A variety of university-affiliated and community substance abuse programs are available as research sites. These include inpatient- and outpatient-setting programs that treat a range of problems related to SUD treatment, including dependence on cocaine, nicotine, alcohol, and opiates. Our program encourages close research involvement with your preceptor, and involvement in selected classes, seminars, and grant preparation.

The training program is supported in part by the Western States Node of the NIDA Clinical Trials Network. Resources from other significant extramural funding and R01-level grants are also routinely available to scholars.

Our philosophy

Our unifying philosophy is:

  1. SUD treatment and services research must be methodologically excellent and clinically relevant.
  2. Problems related to substance use are best attacked from a multidisciplinary perspective.
  3. Integration of knowledge of various intellectual domains is essential to the development of effective treatment.

Because our philosophy implies that the quality of the postdoctoral program depends on the quality of the scholars, faculty, and environment, rather than on any particular class or activity, we energetically recruit to obtain high-quality applicants into a research environment where they will work under the guidance of research-sophisticated investigators.

Program faculty

Our postdoctoral program is directed by a five-member site directors group, an executive committee, and core faculty, representing psychiatry, public health and policy, behavioral sciences, medicine, and biostatistics. They represent a diverse, but overlapping, range of research interests.

Program faculty are:

Postdoctoral training program

Each year, scholars participate in a core Postdoctoral Research Seminar and the Writers' Task Force—a group that facilitates, supports, and encourages the publication of manuscripts.

As part of their research training, scholars interact daily with investigators who guide them in responsible conduct of research and in solving the special ethical dilemmas of treatment and clinical research. Most scholars also take one of the several advanced statistics courses offered by the UCSF Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics. Scholars' research projects and those of their mentors are closely tied. As scholars move from Year 1 to Year 2, they progress from a project designed by their mentor to a more independently conceived project, which they lead.

Goals for postdoctoral scholars

At the end of our postdoctoral program, scholars are expected to have acquired the following competencies and completed the following tasks:

  1. Gained knowledge of substance use and its treatment
  2. Advanced their knowledge of statistical and methodological techniques needed for clinical and services research
  3. Understand SUD treatment systems and substance research projects
  4. Conducted at least two research projects in a clinical setting (one designed by their preceptor; and one of their own design, for which they have primary responsibility)
  5. Made multiple internal presentations
  6. Made at least two presentations of their work at national meetings
  7. Published one to three journal articles
  8. Submitted a small grant application to local funding sources
  9. Published additional manuscripts from the work completed as a scholar during the two years following enrollment in our program

Support for postdoctoral scholars

Scholars are funded by multiple sources. Stipend levels are set by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), based on years of related experience. Scholars are provided with other research support, including travel to at least one annual professional meeting and other support required for a useful training experience, including statistical consulting, some administrative and clerical support, and access to computers for writing and data analyses.

Background of former postdoctoral scholars

Our postdoctoral scholars have come from a variety of fields, including clinical psychology, counseling psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, nursing, political science, psychiatry, pharmacology, public health, social work, and social psychology. Recent trainee research projects include:

  • Vocational issues among methadone outpatients
  • Social identities and treatment outcomes among alcohol and cocaine abusers in private treatment
  • The effects of acute nicotine use on cue-induced cocaine craving
  • Mood management intervention for injection drug users
  • Childhood trauma and PTSD in inpatient substance abusers
  • Studies of effective educational method in drug abuse education
  • Studies of the relationship of readiness to change and depression to nicotine dependence
  • Studies of service utilization and outcome among elderly substance users
  • Studies of drug abuse treatment and services within health maintenance organizations

Success of our postdoctoral graduates

We admit two to four scholars each year. Graduates of our postdoctoral program have been placed at numerous high-caliber institutions where research is valued.

Application process

Please direct information requests, application packets, and letters of recommendation submissions to Jaime Smith at [email protected].

For consideration into the postdoctoral program, please send an application packet consisting of your (1) cover letter, (2) curriculum vitae, (3) statement of research interests, and (4) representative work. Statement of research interests should include the following items:

  1. History of research projects
  2. Current interests
  3. What you would like to learn and accomplish during your postdoctoral traineeship at UCSF
  4. A list of program faculty with whom you would like to work

Two letters of reference should be sent directly from the recommenders.

Representative work can include dissertation chapters if no publications are available. Electronic submission of materials (except reference letters) is strongly encouraged. The application period is open until filled.

All applicants must have completed their doctorate at the time of entry into the program and be a U.S. citizen or have Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card) status at the time of appointment.

Useful resources and links

Current postdoctoral scholars


Alexis Cooke, PhD

Alexis Cooke received her PhD in public health from UCLA in 2017 and is now a postdoctoral fellow in substance use disorders treatment and services research in the Department of Psychiatry working with Kelly Knight, PhD. Alexis’ research interests are related to understanding the social ecology of urban life through substance use. Her research and professional interests revolve around examining the behaviors, activities, and relationships that communities engage in to deal with the impacts of poverty and inequitable social structures. Alexis’ work is focused on examining the implementation of programs, interventions and policies developed to address these issues and identifying leverage points that are the most impactful to health. She was appointed to the program on August 1, 2017.


Carlo Hojilla, RN, PhD

Carlo Hojilla received his doctoral degree in nursing at UCSF in May 2017. Carlo’s primary research focus is on biomedical HIV prevention strategies that reach marginalized subgroups most at risk for HIV. In particular, he is interested in examining the psychosocial determinants of sub-optimal PrEP use, stimulant and alcohol use, and behavioral changes in the context of PrEP use. Carlo is the principal investigator on an NIDA R36 Drug Abuse Dissertation Grant, investigating and identifying risk factors for suboptimal PrEP use in the iPrEx Open Label Extension using biomarker-confirmed drug and alcohol use and medication adherence. He was appointed to the program on June 1, 2018.


J. Konadu Fokuo, PhD

J. Konadu Fokuo (pronounced: Koonaydoo Foecuoh) is currently a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF in the substance use and minority health cluster at Zuckerberg San Francisco General. She completed her doctoral education in clinical and rehabilitation psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Konadu’s research interest is primarily in reducing stigma (structural, public, and self) as a barrier to health service utilization for stigmatized populations such as patients with severe mental illness and patients with substance use disorders. Her research explores ethics, educational curricula, and health equity to develop and assess culturally sensitive anti-stigma programs. 


Meredith Meacham, PhD, MPH

Meredith Meacham, PhD, MPH is an epidemiologist who uses multidisciplinary analytic methods to understand patterns of polysubstance use and related health conditions (e.g., substance use disorders, overdose, mental illness, HIV). As a postdoctoral fellow, she contributes to development and analysis of tailored smoking cessation interventions delivered through social media with Danielle Ramo, PhD; works on cohort studies examining the health of unstably housed women with Elise Riley, PhD; and designs text analysis projects to explore how people who use cannabis use social media and online communities to seek and share health information. She earned her PhD in public health (global health)from the University of California San Diego/San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program, with a dissertation on polydrug use and risk of HIV and overdose in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Meredith also has an MPH from the University of Washington and an AB from the University of Chicago. She was appointed to the program on January 1, 2016.


Recent graduates


Anna Harrison, PhD

Anna Harrison received her PhD in clinical psychology from Northwestern University in 2016, where she studied the effects of incarceration on mental health and substance use. She completed her predoctoral clinical internship at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. During her time in the postdoctoral fellowship program, Dr. Harrison worked to disseminate substance use treatments to youth involved in the justice system. Her current research interests include developing digital health interventions to improve substance use treatment for justice-involved populations. Dr. Harrison will be working as a suicide prevention psychologist in the San Francisco VA Health Care System.


Erin Vogel, PhD

Erin Vogel is a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, funded by an individual fellowship award through the Tobacco-Related Diseases Research Program. Her current research focuses on social influences on adolescent e-cigarette use and the development and implementation of digital interventions for smoking cessation delivered on social media. Dr. Vogel was appointed to the program on July 1, 2017 after completing her PhD in experimental (social) psychology at the University of Toledo (Toledo, Ohio) in May 2017. She is a member of the Research on Addictions and Digital Interventions lab (principal investigator: Danielle Ramo).Her personal website can be found at