UTEP Takes Multidisciplinary Approach for Drug Addiction Research

Posted: 3/22/2011

For decades, El Paso has been known as a city made up of a diverse group of citizens with an even more diverse set of beliefs and customs. That mix of cultures gives the Sun City its uniqueness, but also creates challenges in many areas unseen in other parts of the country.

Edward Castañeda, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at El Paso, understands those intricacies well. The El Paso native and UTEP alumnus uses his knowledge of the Paso del Norte region to conduct groundbreaking research in the area of neuroscience, cognition and behavioral sciences.

This year, the National Institutes in Health awarded a Castañeda-led group of UTEP faculty from the colleges of Science, Liberal Arts, and Health Sciences with a grant for more than $2 million to fund the University’s Vulnerability Issues in Drug Abuse (VIDA) research training program. The team will conduct a five-year study of factors that contribute to drug addiction among Hispanics of Mexican origin, which is an understudied population in the subject.

"We made the argument that El Paso is a very unique environment – it’s a border community,” said Castañeda. “We have an opportunity to look at a number of diverse factors such as gender, culture and ethnicity, across different disciplines here at UTEP.”

As part of the University's Diversity-promoting Institutions Drug Abuse Research Program, VIDA brings together UTEP researchers from the health, social/behavioral and biological sciences and public policy fields that integrate the neuroscience and socio-cultural dimensions of drug use vulnerability in Hispanics.

The program also will be used to recruit talented graduate and undergraduate students, conduct campus seminars and workshops, and two conferences about drug abuse.

“What made this work was that we came together as a team and everybody had an opportunity to contribute to the development (of the program) based on their perspectives,” said Castañeda.

He noted that the multidisciplinary approach to VIDA coincides with UTEP’s bid to become a Tier One university. That effort will mean additional federal research funds for the University, but also a stronger interdisciplinary research structure that will benefit UTEP students, he said.

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