For our ‘Perspectives on PAMT’ series, we asked current Fellows in our Prevention and Methodology Training Program, which is funded through a T32 training grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, to reflect on their experiences thus far in the program.
What is the focus of your research? How has it evolved during your time with PAMT?
Broadly, my research focuses on alcohol-related consequences experienced by college students. I am especially interested in alcohol-induced blackouts. I want to understand why blackouts occur on some heavy drinking nights, but not others. I am also interested in understanding what happens during and after a blackout. This includes studying the experience of additional consequences on blackout nights versus non-blackout nights. I use intensive longitudinal data designs (e.g., alcohol sensors, ecological momentary assessments) to answer these questions.
What motivated you to apply to PAMT?
When researching different postdoc positions, I focused on two main things. First, I wanted to work with experts who are both excellent scientists but also nice, kind people. Second, I wanted to “beef up” my methodology training. PAMT seemed like the perfect combination of the two.
How has PAMT helped you?
With PAMT being T32-funded (rather than tied to a specific grant), I have had a lot of intellectual freedom to explore what I am most interested in. I have gained skills in advanced statistical methods, study design, and grant writing, to a name a few.
Did you benefit from having a two-person mentoring team, rather than doing a postdoc with a single mentor? If so, how?
I love the two-person mentoring team structure. Both of my mentors are fantastic, and I learn a lot from both of them. Although one is primarily prevention and one is primarily methods, they are both great at combining the two. This has shaped how I think about overall study design. It has also been very helpful to have mentors at two different stages of their careers, as they can offer unique advice.
What are your career goals?
My goal is to eventually become an NIH-funded, tenured professor at an R1 institute. I am really excited to be in a position where I can independently run projects and mentor students.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying to PAMT?
Think about what you want out of your postdoc, and who can help you achieve this. PAMT has so many faculty affiliates and choosing the right mentors is, in my opinion, the most important part of choosing your postdoc.
What are you most proud of about your time at Penn State?
I am very proud that I submitted an NIH R21 grant and published two first-authored papers as a first-year postdoc.
Any advice about making the transition to living in State College?
Buy a good winter coat, boots, and merino wool socks!
To learn more about Dr. Richards’ professional experience and interests, visit her web page on the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center website.