Training Programs

Rising STARS (Scientific Training in Alcohol Research and other Substances) Program


Rising STARS is a collaboration between University of Southern California (USC) with neighboring California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) and Charles R. Drew University (CDU) and proposes to advance undergraduate training of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the fields of alcohol and substance use disorders (ASUD). This unique and innovative educational and research experience program brings together three universities that are within proximity of each other in Los Angeles that together represent one of the largest pools of talented URM students in the U.S.

The mission of the Rising STARS program is to develop the creativity and intellectual talents of our most motivated, undergraduate URM students with the focused goal of making their talents available to strong Ph.D. programs to enrich future addiction science research through their participation. Given the breadth and integration of the USC IAS with over 80 faculty involved in ASUD research, Rising STARS scholars will have the opportunity to train in preclinical, human laboratory, clinical, public health, and/or policy approaches that focus on ASUD research. We will provide the next generation of scientists’ real-world experiences and enrichment to propel them forward into graduate-level training and careers in ASUD and addiction sciences.





The proposed 2-year program, beginning the summer prior to junior year and ending spring of senior year, will provide structured, real-world experiences and an exceptional training foundation that will propel our R25 scholars forward into graduate-level training in ASUD research and eventual careers in addiction sciences. Importantly, by increasing the diversity of scientists in these fields, we will provide a platform for developing distinct questions and approaches.


Program Highlights:
  • Technical Skills Development
  • Professional Development
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration
  • Scientific and Community Engagement
Program Specific Aims: 
  • Provide intensive didactics to develop foundations in research skills and substantive knowledge in ASUD research and addiction science
  • To provide meaningful transdisciplinary research experiences involving pathways from early-stage research apprenticeship to an advanced, honors-level independent research project
  • To address structural barriers to URM students’ success by providing structured career development education and facilitation of planning, submitting applications, and matriculating into graduate school
For more information, please contact:

Nina Kirmiz, PhD

Research Program Administrator

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Meet the Rising STARTS 2023 Cohort

  • Ariel Ford
  • Skyye Dodds-Lewis
  • Amal Roble
  • Olivia Diaz
  • Marina Kaypaghian
  • Nicolette Fajardo
  • Julio Rivera

CSUSB/CDU Smoke and Vape Free Scholars Initiative (CCSVFSI)

This collaborative training initiative is a partnership between California State University San Bernadino (CSUSB) and Charles R. Drew University (CDU) which aims to create a diverse workforce of scientist and advocates to achieve the goal of creating a smoke-and vape-free California.  The CSUSB/CDU Smoke and Vape Free Scholars Initiative (CCSVFSI) will cultivate a cohort of undergraduate and master’s students who are part of groups that are targeted by the tobacco industry – referred to as tobacco priority populations – to develop them as scientists and leaders who will meet the emerging challenges in this field. Scholars in the CCSVFSI program will receive intensive research exposure and didactic training to promote their transition to doctoral programs and professional degrees (i.e., medical, social work, public health) in tobacco cessation-related fields.

USC will provide students with high quality tobacco and vaping research opportunities through a Scholar-Mentor Matching Strategy by which students are matched with a faculty research mentor based on space availability in the mentor’s laboratory and student’s research interests.



Program Specific Aims

  • Provide didactic and participatory activities in tobacco control
  • Provide world-class research internships
  • Arrange participation in tobacco control and advocacy projects
  • Provide culturally-sensitive mentoring activities and community engagement activities

The program will be led by two experts and long-standing collaborators in developing substance abuse training programs targeting diversity students, Cynthia Crawford, PhD at CSUSB and Theodore C. Friedman, MD, PhD at CDU.

For more information, please contact:
Nina Kirmiz, PhD
Research Program Administrator