Research Opportunities

Co-Mentored Research Opportunities in Addiction Science:

There are many major research programs at BU that provide excellent opportunities for TTPAS students to develop interdisciplinary dissertation projects in addiction.  BU faculty investigators currently bring in over $52.6 million from approximately 105 funded addiction-related research projects.

Dr. Lindsay Farrer

Chief of Biomedical Genetics at BUSM and Director of BU’s Molecular Genetics Core Facility, co-leads a long-standing multi-institutional research program comprising multiple NIDA and NIAAA funded genetic studies of dependence on cocaine, opiates, alcohol and nicotine.  Collectively, these studies include information for ~ 3,500 clinical, demographic and lifestyle variables obtained from a standardized psychiatric interview of more than 8,000 subjects ascertained through addiction treatment programs in multiple centers in the eastern United States.  These data and DNA specimens obtained from each subject are included in a variety of genetic and epidemiological studies that address candidate gene and genome-wide associations, next-generation sequencing, heritability and co-segregation analyses of co-morbidity, gene-environments interactions, and function and expression of addiction candidate genes.

Dr. David Farb

Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, studies the neurobiological underpinnings of drug abuse. His research uses a self-administration-reinstatement rodent model to investigate mechanisms of relapse and identify new treatments. These rodents share many triggers that precipitate relapse in addicts. Effects of neuroactive steroids, pharmacological and molecular modulators of glutamate receptors on reinstatement are tested using intracranial microinjections into specific limbic nuclei. Results from these preclinical models will facilitate the identification of new biomarkers that are important for the assessment of treatment outcomes, especially for patients whose illicit drug use is co-morbid with other CNS diseases.

Dr. Kathleen Kantak

Professor of Psychology, conducts behavioral, pharmacological and molecular research related to memory system regulation of drug addiction, mechanisms and modulation of drug cue extinction learning, and co-morbidity between drug addiction and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder using animal models. The emphasis of her work is on combining pharmacological and behavioral interventions for the treatment of drug addiction.

Dr. Marlene Oscar-Berman

Director of the graduate program in Behavioral Neuroscience, studies the effects of long-term chronic alcoholism on the structure and functioning of the human brain. Alcoholism-related abnormalities in brain centers controlling emotional perception and regulation may differ for men and women and can differentially alter the course of alcoholism directly by affecting sensitivity to feedback and through affecting the capacity to make economic, social, and health-related decisions. Her research addresses these issues using neurobehavioral tests in concert with neuroimaging measures of brain structure and function.

The CARE Unit at BUMC

The  Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit at BUMC conducts research, educates health professionals, provides health care, and informs clinical and public health practice and policy to improve the lives of people with unhealthy alcohol and other drug use.  This Unit is directed by Dr. Richard Saitz, who is also the Associate Director of the Office of Clinical Research, and includes 11 faculty-level researchers. Eight funded research studies are currently ongoing including clinical epidemiology research on early identification and management of unhealthy alcohol and drug use, chronic care management for dependence, and the impact of alcohol and drugs on HIV and related conditions.

Dr. Gary Kaplan

Director of the BU-affiliated Mental Health Service at VA Boston Healthcare System, examines signaling and neuroplasticity mechanisms in opiate sensitization and conditioned opiate reward, its extinction, and reacquisition. Such translational research defines the mechanisms related to drug relapse and defines novel therapeutic targets of interest.

The Center for Addictions Research and Services

The Center for Addictions Research and Services based in SSW and directed by Dr. Lena Lundgren conducts research in a variety of areas including: 1) the role of substance abuse treatment in preventing HIV/AIDS; 2) identifying patterns of service utilization among substance users; 3) factors affecting access to substance abuse treatment; 4) parental substance abuse and effects on children; 5) methadone maintenance and other medically assisted treatments; 6) racial/ethnic disparities in substance abuse treatment; 7) assessment of outcomes in substance abuse training; 8) Influence of acculturation on use/abuse of alcohol and other drugs, and 9) substance abuse and co-occurring psychiatric disorders.