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Veteran and military-connected student summer research program in mental health research

The Minneapolis VA Health Care System Service to Science Scholars Summer Research Program offers nine full-time, paid positions to undergraduate and graduate students in psychology and related fields.

The Minneapolis VA Mental Health Integrated Care Community, with support from the VA Office of Research and Development, hosts a Veteran and military-connected student summer research program in mental health research. We recognize that Veterans are underrepresented among scientists pursuing VA mission-critical behavioral science research on PTSD, suicide prevention, post-deployment health and reintegration, and other mental health issues. We're eager for student Veterans, current U.S. service members and military-connected students (e.g., dependent of a U.S. Veteran or current U.S. service member) to gain a clinical science understanding of mental disorders necessary for their success as the future generation of VA scientists.

About the program

Dates

  • Apply by December 31, 2023
  • Program runs for 10 weeks from June 3 to August 9, 2024

Accommodations for start and end dates may be made to meet class schedule needs. This program is a full-time commitment to intensive lab work.

Salary and housing

  • This is a paid program in which participants are paid as VA employees; approximate salary for undergraduate students is $6,000 and approximate salary for graduate students is $7,800.
  • Housing at University of Minnesota campus dormitories and travel reimbursement up to $500 available for out-of-state students

Highlights

  • Real-world experience with cutting-edge Veteran-focused research at a major VA medical facility. Our nationally and internationally recognized award-winning VA faculty are studying a range of questions relevant to Veteran populations, including PTSD, suicide risk and prevention, traumatic brain injury, cognitive aging, severe mental illness, addiction, sensor technologies and mHealth assessments, risk and resilience.
  • Faculty-led research seminars on various interdisciplinary topics in Veteran mental health research.
  • Weekly seminars on professional development topics such as how-to’s of applying statistics, scientific writing, and being an effective peer mentor.
  • Tutorials on applying to, surviving and excelling in graduate school and beyond.
  • Social networking activities with other trainees in the program.
  • Opportunities for co-authoring papers and scientific presentations.
  • Daily experience of learning from faculty mentors, graduate students and others farther along their career paths.
  • Presentation of your research experience to other students and faculty at the annual Service to Science Scholars Research Program Symposium.

How to apply

Who can apply

  • This program is open to undergraduate (sophomore, junior, or senior standing at the time of application) and graduate students in psychology and related fields. Preference will be given to applications from students who are U.S. Veterans, current U.S. service members, or a dependent of a current U.S. service member or U.S. Veteran.
  • Students should have completed Research Methods or a related course prior to application.
  • Students must have a strong academic record, minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4-point scale.
  • Applicants must be a U.S. citizen.

Students who are interested in pursuing research careers and have an interest in Veteran mental health research are especially encouraged to apply. Students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in sciences (e.g., students from minoritized, low-income, differently abled, first-generation college student, and other backgrounds) are strongly encouraged to apply. We welcome applications from students attending smaller institutions without broad research facilities.

Application process

Please submit the following materials by December 31, 2023:

  1. Personal Statement (1-2 pages) including:

    • Brief description of your short- and long-term career goals and how the summer program would support those goals (no more than 300 words).
    • Specific research areas in Veteran mental health that you are interested in, as well as potential faculty mentors (no more than 200 words).
    • A statement that you are a U.S. Veteran, current U.S. military service member or their dependent, if applicable.
    • A statement confirming your status, if applicable, after carefully reviewing criteria from the National Science Foundation description of populations underrepresented in the biomedical research workforce.
  2. Curriculum vitae/resume describing your academic, research and work experience, and a list of three professional references.

  3. Unofficial transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended.

Submit application materials to: Helen.Frieman@va.gov with the subject line "Service to Science Scholars Program Application [your name]".

Upon review of application materials, we will interview the most promising applicants and discuss available mentors. Applicants will be invited to interview with one or more potential mentors and/or program directors. Final selection of candidates will be announced by early February.

For more information, email Helen.Frieman@va.gov or call 612-946-5859.

Program structure

We're currently seeking applications for a limited number of full-time paid positions for 10 weeks of summer research in collaboration with one or more principal investigators conducting mental health research at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Prior research experience is not required, just an interest and curiosity about the scientific process. Additional opportunities to continue with research involvement for class credit during the school year may be available. Please contact us with any questions: Melissa.Polusny@va.gov and Snezana.Urosevic@va.gov

Service to Science Scholars Summer Research Program includes

Hands-on mentored research experience

Undergraduate students

Undergraduate students are introduced to the scientific community and techniques and practices of clinical psychopathology science. The program provides:

  • an opportunity for undergraduate mentees to carry out a paid mentored research project over the summer.

Graduate students

Graduate students are introduced to the VA scientific community and roles and responsibilities of a clinician investigator. The program offers an opportunity to both:

  • carry out a mentored research project, and
  • mentor an undergraduate student through a summer research internship under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

Core curriculum

Weekly seminars address research communication skills, practical research skills, equity and inclusion awareness, developing identity as a scientist, increasing research independence, and career and professional development skills. Students attend a weekly seminar focused on introduction to relevant data visualization and data analyses software. Graduate students also attend workshops focused on best practices in mentorship.

Professional development activities

The program provides students ample opportunities for networking with other researchers and students, collaborating with research teams, participating in lab meetings, attending research colloquia and scientific presentations.

Mentorship

Students will be paired with a faculty mentor for weekly meetings and will be expected to contribute to the mentor’s active project(s). Potential mentors and their core areas of research focus include:

  • Carol Chu Yu, PhD, Suicide risk and prevention, mHealth assessments
  • Nicolas Davenport, PhD, Mild TBI, PTSD, neuroimaging
  • Seth Disner, PhD, Genetic factors in PTSD, mild TBI
  • Jacob Finn, PhD, Psychological health and social functioning after TBI, TBI Model Systems program
  • Holly Hamilton, PhD, Cognition and neuroplasticity in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders; psychosis risk & resilience; electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Adriana Hughes, PhD, Aging, cognitive decline, active/passive sensor technologies
  • Craig Marquardt, PhD, Neurobiology of PTSD (EEG), longitudinal study of resilience, personality
  • Katherine Miller, PhD, Behavioral sleep medicine, PTSD, ambulatory measurement
  • Tasha Nienow, PhD, Cognition and social cognition in schizophrenia, psychosocial rehabilitation
  • Melissa Polusny, PhD, Risk and resilience, longitudinal studies of military deployment and reintegration, post-traumatic stress disorders, and resilience
  • Paulo Shiroma, MD, Randomized control trials for PTSD, ketamine treatment
  • Scott Sponheim, PhD, Brain abnormalities in schizophrenia and psychosis, mild TBI, PTSD, neuroimaging, electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Britt Stevenson, PhD, Addiction, alcohol use, ecological momentary assessment
  • Paul Thuras, PhD, Biostatistics in mental health research
  • Snežana Urošević, PhD, Bipolar disorders, EEG, neuroimaging, mHealth and digital phenotyping

We anticipate the 2024 summer program to be in-person. Program structure and any modifications are subject to change and will be adjusted accordingly to align with VA COVID-19 policies.