The proposed research education program, has three objectives: 1) to provide innovative education in statistical genetics methods for addictive behaviors to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows;2) to involve and mentor them in the development and application of new statistical methods and computational models relevant to analyze the vast and ever increasing genetic data being generated from emerging high throughput technologies;and 3) to apply such methods to critical questions in the genetics of addiction. We have focused on two overarching and inter-related addictive disorders with which our Program leaders and mentors have significant expertise: nicotine and opiate dependence. We offer a rich data infrastructure of ongoing and completed studies pertinent to the genetics of select addictive behaviors. We propose to develop curriculum-based methods that provide new knowledge and opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to work with faculty mentors on research projects focusing on statistical genetics and computational modeling approaches to nicotine and prescription opioid addiction. We will select two pre-doctoral students and one postdoctoral fellow in the first year. Each subsequent year, we will increase the number of participants and at the end of 5 years we will have appointed 5 predoctoral students and 5 postdoctoral fellows each for a maximum of five years. Mentors have been identified from the faculty of collaborating institutions where participants will have their primary appointments including The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, UT Health Science Center and School of Public Health, Baylor College of Medicine, and Rice University. Additional mentors who are leaders in addiction and statistical genetics also serve on the Program Advisory Committee from the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockefeller University, and Texas A&M. These mentors have agreed to join the Program for their expertise and experience in addiction research, statistical genetics and computational models, behavioral science, and genetic epidemiology. The significance of this research education program then is multi-fold. In addition to teaching students to become statistical genetic leaders with a focus in addiction research, it is anticipated that robust new statistical methodologies will be tested and validated and finally that novel genetic targets will be identified. The identification of novel genetic risk factors and their interaction with the environment can contribute to understanding the genetic etiology of nicotine and opiate addiction and help to identify individuals at highest risk as well as to develop targeted therapies on the basis of their personal exposure patterns and their genetic risk profiles. In summary, changing patterns of tobacco use and growing illicit use of prescription pain killers, particularly by children, make the significance of educating these new scientists and launching them in research paramount.
This research education program for doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows will provide mentored training in statistical genetics methods applied to addictive disorders focused on nicotine and opiate dependence. The trainees and their faculty mentors will develop and apply new statistical methods and computational models relevant to analyze the vast and ever increasing genetic data being generated from emerging high throughput technologies;and they will apply such methods to critical questions in the genetics of addiction.
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