Joint Doctoral Program - IRSU

The School of Social Work at San Diego State University and the Division of Global Public Health, School of Medicine, UC San Diego are proud to offer a new Joint Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Substance Use Studies. This program is directed by Dr. Laramie Smith at UCSD and Dr. Maria Luisa Zuñiga at SDSU, who has a joint appointment with UCSD. Interested applicants must apply to the program through SDSU (please see the program website below for steps to apply). We will not accept students who apply to UCSD. If you are interested in mentoring opportunities or would like to learn more about the JDP, please contact at SDSU. 

Interdisciplinary Substance Use Studies Resources

Program Timeline (typical)

  • Year One: 24 semester units at SDSU and mentored research
  • Year Two: 36 quarter units at UC San Diego and mentored research
  • Year Three: Research and work towards advancing to Candidacy/Dissertation work (either university)
  • Year Four: Dissertation work/Dissertation defense

Year One Courses: JDP IRSU

SW 800- Etiology and Pharmacology of Substance Abuse (3 units)
This seminar is designed to provide fundamental and advanced knowledge about the pharmacology and underlying causes of addiction in the most impactful substances of use and misuse in the U.S. Topics include: opioids and prescription drugs, marijuana, and cocaine among other substances. This class also aims to introduce the students to current research issues related to substance use and treatment of addiction.
Instructor: Prof. Iyas Masannat
Offered: Fall semester

SW 801- Global Approaches to Substance Use Prevention and Treatment (3 units)
Using a global health perspective, this course is designed to provide students with an advanced technical understanding of the etiology, epidemiology and prevention and treatment of substance and related problems. The course is comprised of three units reflecting the topical foci and will include: Lectures (guest and by the professor), discussions, student presentation and field trip to a local research & treatment program in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
Instructor: Dr. María Luisa Zúñiga
Offered:  Fall semester

SW 880- Advanced Seminar in Substance Use Research (3 Units)
The purpose of this course is to prepare students to conduct research with focus on substance use topics.  This course is designed to introduce students to the process of research as a sequence of events & characterize different approaches to experimental and non-experimental substance use research. Students will learn how to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of various research designs and methods, understand measurement issues, including those related to reliability and validity.
Instructor: Dr. Eileen Pitpitan
Offered: Fall

PH 800 – JDP Seminar (2 Units)
Research and professional development seminar with Public Health Students
Instructor: TBD
Offered: TBD

Elective as per mentor and program approval
e.g., statistics, epidemiology, other course relevant to JDP student training needs
Offered: TBD

SW 850 – Theoretical Approaches to Substance Use (3 Units)
This broadly focused course will provide students with an overview of current social and behavioral science theories used to understand health-related behavior as well as how these theories can be used to guide the development of behavior change interventions designed to reduce negative health behaviors. We will take an ecological focus (i.e., person-in-environment) for this course and will focus on the application of health behavior theory at multiple levels (person, group, community, etc.). Particular emphasis will be given to discussing health-related disparities and whether current theory is adequate to explain health behavior in light of the disparities in the U.S.
Instructor: Dr. Eileen Pitpitan
Offered: Spring

SW 881 – Advanced Multivariate Data Analysis: Applications to Substance Use Research (3 Units)
This seminar course provides a conceptual overview of advanced multivariate statistical analysis techniques used frequently in substance use/use research as well as application practice. Each week students will learn about a particular data analysis technique and will be asked to analyze data using the technique. Students will read empirical articles in substance use literature which use the multivariate technique discussed during each course session.
Instructor: TBD
Offered: Spring

SW 702 – U.S.-Mexico Border Health, Emphasis on Substance Use (3 Units)
The seminar advances understanding of policies and research related to health and substance use in the U.S.-Mexico border region and among migrant populations (e.g. deportation policies on substance use behavior). Students explore intersection of substance use research, policy & substance use risk.
Instructor: Dr. María Luisa Zúñiga 
Offered: Spring 

SW 897 – Independent/Dissertation Research (3-6 Units)
Independent Research (pre-Candidacy) or Dissertation Research (Advanced Candidacy Status); can be taken 6 units maximum per semester (AY)

SW 899 – Dissertation Research/Defense (3 Units)
Students will need to register for SW 899 in the semester they plan on defending their dissertation and graduating.