Institute for Translational Research in Adolescent Behavioral Health

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Mission and Aims:

The mission of the Institute for Translational Research in Adolescent Behavioral Health is to develop, cultivate, and disseminate an innovative model of research education that addresses best practices for translational research in the field of adolescent behavioral health, as it relates to substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Special attention is afforded to childhood precursors to drug abuse and mental disorders in middle to late adolescence, such as early onset substance use, and externalizing disruptive behavior disorders. The Institute provides training for scholars and guidance for community partners on translational research methods, policies and perspectives, and the practical skills of translational research. A cross-disciplinary collaborative approach is used with special attention to evidence-based practice, translational research, and adolescents as an at-risk population. The Institute is a collaborative effort between local community service agencies serving adolescents and two Colleges at the University of South Florida: the College of Public Health and the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

Institute Faculty and Staff:

Program Details:

A characteristic feature of the Institute is a team mentoring approach. Along with community agency partners, academic mentors and national mentors work together as a team to guide scholars in the latest science of alcohol and drug abuse prevention, intervention and sustainability - with an added emphasis on translational issues of evidence based practices (EBPs).

Coursework is completed over four semesters, with scholars receiving training in the foundations of, translational research methods for, and advanced research education in adolescent behavioral health. Training provided through the Institute is accessible via the use of a state-of-the-art e-learning platform. Online course curricula seamlessly integrate community-based and classroom-based learning. Local participating instructors and national mentors provide a variety of educational modalities in both group and individual formats, including web-based lecture series, discussion groups (real-time interactive sessions), case studies, and independent reading assignments. Delivery of course content relies on internet-based audio and video content, podcasts, Elluminate, and other virtual classroom systems. Moreover, special support needs for distance-learners are acknowledged and curricula leaders and instructors utilize enhanced communication technologies, discussion forums, chat-rooms, email, desktop sharing, and teleconferencing to ensure student engagement and support. A community-based service learning research project, Capstone Project, is also conducted in partnership with community agencies.

The Capstone Project is conceptualized during the first semester of the program and based on course presentations of problems, issues and trends in adolescent drug abuse and mental disorders. Guided by the mentoring teams, Institute scholars then have three semesters to conceptualize, plan, and complete Capstone Projects that represent meaningful and cutting-edge research and academic development in selected content areas. During the conduct of the Capstone Project, scholars participate in four Institute seminars. These seminars are designed to provide an opportunity for participating scholars to meet with academic and community mentors and discuss their experiences in conducting translational research in community settings. The Capstone Project culminates in a presentation at the annual Children’s Mental Health Research and Policy Conference in March of each year.

Admissions & Application:

The Institute anticipates a total of 15 scholars each year, ten student scholars and five community partner scholars. Applications will be accepted during the fall semester and the program will begin in the spring semester.

Scholars will be from masters and doctoral degree programs in fields related to drug abuse and mental health clinical and services research. Potential fields include social work, rehabilitation and mental health counseling, criminology, public health, clinical psychology, cognitive and neural sciences, and education.

The Institute is designed to cover all costs associated with trainee experiences, including annual conference participation and required web based training. Individuals who historically have been underrepresented in clinical and behavioral health services research or persons who self-identify as belonging to another under-represented group are encouraged to apply. USF is an equal opportunity, equal access academic institution that embraces diversity in academics. Applicants who need disability accommodations in order to participate in the selection process should contact Ms. Donna L. Burton, Project Director at least five working days in advance of need.

Institute scholars will meet the following eligibility criteria to be considered for admission:

  1. Be enrolled in a master's degree or doctoral degree program at USF in selected areas, potential fields include social work, rehabilitation and mental health counseling, criminology, public health, clinical psychology, cognitive and neural sciences, and education;
  2. Demonstrate commitment to a career that emphasizes clinical or services research in the field of drug abuse and mental health;
  3. Demonstrate interest in pursuing a career in the field of child and adolescent drug abuse and mental health; and
  4. Intend to remain enrolled in the Institute for four full semesters and attend the annual conference.
  5. Institute scholars from the community agency partners will not be required to be fully matriculated in a degree program (criterion 1), but will be master’s prepared clinicians, researchers, or administrators.
The Institute application will include a personal statement (250-words or less), CV or resume, two letters of recommendation, and transcripts. Applicants will also be required to submit the Graduate Certificate Departmental Approval Form once the Graduate Certificate in Translational Research in Adolescent Behavioral Health has been formally approved.

Degree seeking students can download the application here.

Application review will begin October 15th with notification of admission beginning November 5th.

Contact Information:

For additional information on applying to be an Institute scholar, please contact

Donna L. Burton, Project Director, at 813-974-3241 (office) or by email: or

Funding Information:

The Institute is funded through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) 1R25DA031103-01A1.