Pre-Doctoral Training Position

Location | 2001 N Soto Street, Los Angeles, CA 90032
Experience | PhD, MD, DDS, ScD, DrPH, PharmD

Pre-Doctoral Training Opportunities in Tobacco Regulatory Science

(Tobacco Policy Research)

Pre-Doctoral Training Opportunities in Tobacco Regulatory Science

(Tobacco Policy Research)

The Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) is accepting applications for open pre-doctoral scholar positions in the USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS).  The pre-doctoral scholar position will include training in Tobacco Regulatory Science (TRS), which is research that provides evidence that will inform the Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products.  For additional background, see FDA,  NIH and the USC TCORS websites.

The 1-2 year training program will have four core elements including required coursework, project immersion, research funding, and professional development and mentoring.  Trainees will be matched to one of the TCORS research projects and brought onto the project team.  The research will be an appropriate platform for identifying a dissertation project.  Trainees will be encouraged and supported to apply for the TCORS pilot research grants to enhance their ability to carry out independent research.  Trainees will also attend professional development seminars and receive individualized mentorship from members of the TCORS advisory groups matched to their interests and needs.  Upon completion of the training, fellows will be well positioned to be active participants and take on leadership roles in the future development and implementation of tobacco policies and tobacco control interventions. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, this position may begin remotely before transitioning to an on-campus position; timing of return to campus will be in accordance with USC guidelines.


Required Qualifications:  This opportunity is for individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds in medical, biological, social, behavioral, and policy sciences.  Applicants must be on track to a PhD, MD, DDS, ScD, DrPH, PharmD or equivalent doctoral degree from USC.


Trainee Expectations: This is a 20-hr/week placement. Fellows receive a stipend commensurate with the Keck School of Medicine and Graduate School of USC funding guidelines and will be highly encouraged to apply for USC TCORS Career Enhancement Core (CEC) pilot grants with funding up to $35,000 to support their research.

Benefits of Training

  • Strong mentoring with USC TCORS Faculty
  • Opportunity to apply for pilot funding
  • Opportunity for immersion experience
  • Networking with experts from the FDA and NIH

Application Deadline:   On a rolling basis

To Apply:  Apply online at  If you encounter technical problems, please email all required email to

Required Application Materials:

  • Letter of interest speaking directly to qualifications, professional activities, research interests and accomplishments. The letter should specifically address:  1) the relevance of the candidate’s background to tobacco regulatory science; goals for the training program; and potential research projects related to tobacco regulatory science.
  • Current resume or curriculum vitae
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation

For more information about the USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science or about this training opportunity, please contact: Kiana Rowshan,, 323-442-7253.

USC TCORS Investigator Roster


Project 1: Effects of Social Media Marketing and Messages on Tobacco Transitions

PIs: Tess Cruz, Ph.D. and Jennifer Unger, Ph.D.


Project 1 incorporates two complementary studies to determine how pro-tobacco marketing and messages about e-cigarettes on social media will influence e-cigarette susceptibility, experimentation, and transitions in tobacco use among adolescents (under age 18) and young adults (ages 18-29). Results can guide FDA regulations affecting marketing on social media that may have differential effects on non-users and users, and FDA’s evaluation of the potential risk of messages outlined in new product marketing applications.


Project 2: Influence of Tobacco Product Characteristics and Marketing on Diverse Populations of Vape Shop Customers

PIs: Steve Sussman, Ph.D. and Lourdes Baezconde- Garbanti, Ph.D.


Project 2 contrasts three groups of vape shop customers—e-cigarette-only users (who never smoked cigarettes extensively); switchers (who quit smoking and now only use e-cigarettes); and dual users (who currently use both e-cigarettes and cigarettes)—regarding anticipated purchase or use of e-cigarettes and combustible products currently and after hypothetical but plausible regulatory changes. Vape shops, which specialize in selling a variety of e-cigarette devices and liquids, are a key channel of exposure to these products. The goal of this project is to examine how different segments of the vape shop customer population would likely react to hypothetical (but plausible) e-cigarette regulations. Researchers will conduct interviews with customers (ages 21 and older) exiting vape shops in a racially/ethnically diverse set of neighborhoods. Findings hope to inform future regulatory activities related to e-cigarettes.


Project 3: Product characteristics, marketing, and e-cigarette and cigarette use across adolescence and young adulthood

PIs: Rob McConnell and Jessica Barrington-Trimis


P3 will test hypotheses about e-cigarette product characteristics and marketing strategies that may attract never-smokers and put them at risk for tobacco product use. Researchers will survey participants in three cohorts of adolescents and young adults (ages 14-25) in southern California recruited as part of the TCORS Population Core.


Project 4: E-Cigarette Flavors and Other Product Characteristics in the Human Laboratory

PI: Adam Leventhal, Ph.D.


Project 4 will determine effects of e-cigarette product diversity on 1) appeal and abuse liability in never-smoking young adults e-cigarettes users versus older adult smokers, 2) ability to resist smoking in older adult smokers, and 3) appeal, abuse liability, and resisting smoking by sex. Through the human laboratory paradigm, the investigators will experimentally manipulate the content of the e-liquid or the packaging to expose users to products and measure the effects of these exposures.



The University of Southern California's Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (USC TCORS) for Vulnerable Populations is one of 9 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science in the U.S. We were created to serve in the production of relevant scientific data to inform the regulatory decision making at the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products. Additionally, we are here to educate and train the next generation of tobacco regulatory scientists.

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