UCSF Health Psychology postdoctoral fellowship program - "Psychology and Medicine: Translational Research on Stress, Behavior and Disease"

This NIH postdoctoral training program trains scientists to conduct interdisciplinary research at the intersection of Psychology and Medicine. Although in its 29th year, the program has evolved over time to reflect new discoveries and approaches. In line with the NIMH strategic plan’s emphasis on translational and clinical research, we train fellows to conduct translational research on the interactions among biology, behavioral, and experiential factors that exacerbate illness and mental health. Fellows learn to apply psychological theories and cutting-edge research methodologies to address issues in (1) stress, psychopathology, and psychobiology and (2) health-risk behaviors, related to the prevention and amelioration of diseases including depression, PTSD, and schizophrenia. Within these two research foci fellows receive training and research experience in health disparities, developing and testing interventions, biological underpinnings, precision medicine, and technology using digital health monitoring.

During the training course, fellows share a didactic core including seminars Works in Progress, Behavior and Affective Science seminar; Responsible Conduct of Research; and statistics modules. They conduct independent research with the supervision of a mentor, submit papers, present at conferences, and complete a grant application within a highly mentored process. The program benefits from its placement in a leading health science campus, with research programs in the biological, social, behavioral, and clinical sciences. Other strengths include: a top-ranked faculty; ample opportunities for cross-fertilization with interdisciplinary fellows; and access to databases and seed funds for pilot studies.

The program has produced outstanding, productive young researchers who have gone on to careers in medical or academic centers. We have increased our focus on depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses; enhanced training in psychobiological mechanisms that link psychological/social processes and behavior with mental and physical disorders; and deepened our focus on interventions and health disparities. In this renewal we have retained many successful facets from previous applications, but substantially altered key sections to reflect scientific and conceptual advances. Some of the additions include a focus on precision medicine, training and exposure to dimensional RDOC approaches to understanding mental illness, training in methodology focusing on issues of replication, ethics, and transparency, and digital monitoring. Along with this shift in foci we have reorganized the leadership structure (including a multiple PI team) and our training plan to expand our training focus. We have also added biostatisticians, incorporating new methods for multi-level modeling and big data and established formal ties to the Psychiatry residency research track.