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Interdisciplinary Research
on Substance Use

[ faculty ]

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

The Joint Doctoral Program (JDP)

The Division of Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego (UC San Diego), in conjunction with the School of Social Work, College of Health and Human Services, San Diego State University (SDSU), offers a PhD in the Joint Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use. The program is among the first in the nation to uniquely focus on the prevention—broadly defined—of the use and misuse of alcohol, illicit drugs, and the enormous social and health related consequences of such use.

Students will acquire advanced skills and knowledge in theory, current research, research methods, and analytic approaches related to the scientific understanding of substance use and related problems. As such, students’ studies will examine the etiology and epidemiology of substance use and its related problems as well as the effectiveness or efficacy of interventions (including programs and policies) designed to ameliorate such problems.

Students will spend the first year of study at SDSU, the second at UC San Diego, and work with faculty from both campuses during their predissertation and dissertation work.

Information regarding admission is found in the current edition of the bulletin of the graduate division of San Diego State University and at the program web site: .

PhD Time Limit Policies

All time limits for this program start when a student first registers in this program. Students must be advanced to candidacy by the end of three years. Total university support to students in this program cannot exceed four years. Total registered time in this program cannot exceed six years. The normative time is four years.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Admissions Requirements

Applicants to the JDP must hold a master’s degree from an accredited (US or equivalent) college or university from a related social or behavioral science or professional program (e.g., social work, public health, psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics). It is expected that applicants will have minimum grade point averages of 3.2 (undergraduate) and 3.5 (graduate), and sufficient research experience (e.g., peer-reviewed publication record and prior course work in graduate-level statistics and research methodology) to successfully complete degree requirements in a timely manner. GRE scores are optional for IRSU JDP applicants. Students who speak English as a second language will be required to demonstrate proficiency in spoken and written English through TOEFL exam. TOEFL scores must be submitted to SDSU, Institution Code 4682,

Language Requirement

There is no formal language requirement for the program.

Course Requirements

All students must complete a minimum of sixty units total and residency requirements on both campuses: twenty-four semester units at SDSU and thirty-six quarter units at UC San Diego.

Examinations and Advancement to Candidacy

In order to advance to candidacy, students must a) complete their course work, b) pass a take-home qualifying examination, c) develop a proposal of their dissertation research (NIH-style proposal format), and d) pass an oral defense of their dissertation proposal with their committee. The first part of the qualifying examination is administered following year one of the program. It will be objective and cover the following areas: 1) research methods, 2) data analysis/statistics, 3) pharmacology, and 4) theory. The material for this examination will be taken from course materials related to each of these respective sequences. The second part of the exam is administered at the end of year two and will require students to prepare an NIH-style grant proposal. The student’s doctoral committee will develop and evaluate the take-home qualifying examination; in order to pass, students must achieve at least 80 percent within two attempts.

Faculty Advisers

Program codirectors (UC San Diego and SDSU) will serve as advisers on the technical aspects of the program. The codirectors will serve as the general academic advisers to the students and students will be paired with a faculty program mentor who will mentor and supervise the students training throughout the program. Students will select an adviser (committee chair) from the approved faculty. Advisers can be in either academic department (social work or medicine). It is expected that the committee chair will assist their student in the selection of electives related to the student’s area of interest and to oversee the proposal and dissertation process.

Dissertation Committee

Consistent with other SDSU/UC San Diego JDPs, dissertation/doctoral advisory committees will be composed of a minimum of five members including the chair. Each committee should include at least two internal members from each institution—two faculty members from UC San Diego and two faculty members from SDSU. One of these four members must be the committee chairperson. The fifth member must be a tenured faculty member from either institution and must be outside the department of the committee chair.


Students will select from two dissertation formats. The first option is the traditional dissertation that includes original, independent research presented in chapters (introduction, literature review, methods, results, and discussion). The traditional dissertation is a substantial undertaking and it is expected to yield several scholarly peer-reviewed publications after graduation. The second option will include three sequential first-authored research papers of publishable quality. The student is expected to have conducted independent research to generate these papers (i.e., to have taken the lead on the conceptualization, analyses, and writing). These studies should represent a coherent body of work. As such, students will be expected to include an introduction to the work and summary of the three studies.

Award of the Degree

The doctor of philosophy degree will be awarded jointly by the Regents of the University of California and the Trustees of the California State University in the names of both cooperating institutions.

Financial Support

Each year, four students will be admitted with funding for up to four years contingent on good academic standing and satisfactory progress in the program. Funding will cover tuition at SDSU, UC San Diego, and payment for twenty hours per week of mentored research. Primary funding will be provided by SDSU Academic Affairs and the College of Health and Human Services.