The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Position: Research Assistant
Student: Psychology Senior
The Division on Addictions in the Psychiatry department of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has both clinical and research components. Their goal is to develop and execute novel translational research paradigms, the findings of which contribute to the array of diagnostic and therapeutic measures available to clinicians who treat the addictive disorders.
The responsibilities of a research assistant are highly variable. The most common tasks involve processing the data and performing statistical analyses in programs like Excel and SPSS. While some paradigms lend a well established procedure, the progressive nature of translational research often presents ambiguity and deep understanding of the conceptual basis of these experiments is necessary to surmise reasoned solutions. Often there is little to no insight available from previous studies and the assistant is able to actively participate in establishing the scope of the research.
The most abstract and perhaps challenging task is to propose putative explanations for findings in the data based on previously published research. This involved pouring over volumes of related studies and compiling the main findings into a single document which is intended to give a sense of which explanations will be most supported by the scientific community. This practice involves a great deal of trust between the primary investigator and assistant, and can be highly rewarding as a result.
An integrative view of the clinical and research components of the division is primarily derived from involvement in formal meetings, seminars, journal clubs, and informal luncheons. The assistant works in close proximity with the PI and research staff and over the course of the internship will develop a robust understanding of the principles which inspire translational research and the utility of previous accomplishments which guide the current endeavors.