ECP Spotlight: Finding a Professional Home
Noah Emery, PhD
I would like to start this edition of the Early Career Psychologist Spotlight by introducing myself. My name is Noah Emery and I am currently a NIDA-funded postdoctoral research fellow at Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. My program of research focuses on integrating cognitive and affective science with behavioral pharmacology to identify mechanisms of behavior change that underlie substance use vulnerability in youth and developing interventions targeting these mechanisms. Clinically, I work with adolescents and families affected by substance use and co-occurring conditions at Bradley Children’s Hospital. I am profoundly grateful to have been elected as the new Early Career Representative to the Executive Committee of SoAP. I am honored to serve in this role because SoAP is my professional home.
Finding an organization to call your professional home is an important step in your career. A professional home provides a welcoming community of like-minded researchers and clinicians that affords its members a platform to grow into independent leaders in their respective fields. Whether you are an undergraduate student considering a career in addiction psychology, a first-year graduate student, or a postdoctoral fellow like myself, there are numerous professional societies to choose from. All these organizations do exceptional work in their respective areas and I am a member of several. However, when it comes to a professional home, I contend that SoAP offers an experience that is second to none.
As a non-traditional, first-generation college student who is also a member of an underrepresented group, one of the most important lessons I learned over the years is that talent is randomly distributed, but opportunity is not. In my experience, CVs can vary widely and those from diverse backgrounds are often underrepresented due to this disparity. Being an agent of change requires awareness of how systemic inequalities affect students’ and early career professionals’ ability to excel. I believe attending to this is imperative to ensure a dynamic and diverse workforce capable of addressing complex global health issues. SoAP is committed to providing opportunities to promote equity and prepare our members to be active citizens and thoughtful leaders in the addiction science community. In this way, I would submit that SoAP is truly the land of opportunity.
SoAP has numerouss benefits and ways to get involved that make membership pay off. I would like to highlight two of these opportunities.
Grants – SoAP offers two grant mechanisms designed to aid junior investigators in establishing their research program. The Student Research Grant supports graduate student research in the field of addiction psychology by awarding three grants annually of $1,250. The Early Career Research Grant awards two grants annually of up to $5,000 to professionals within 10 years of completing their doctorate. Securing extramural funding is crucial for the advancement of junior investigators (e.g., investigators scores, tenure and promotion), and these grants were designed to aid SoAP’s junior members in this process. Importantly, both grants come with an additional $500 in travel funds to present the findings at SoAP’s annual meeting, Collaborative Perspectives on Addiction. This effectively reduces financial barriers to conference attendance, while increasing the visibility of junior members.
Leadership and governance roles – SoAP invites students and early career professionals to get involved in shaping the future of addiction psychology through committee involvement. There are committees with charters to promote inclusive excellence, organize conferences, review grants, ensure access to state-of-the-art education and training in addiction science, and advocate for legislation at both state and federal levels. I personally have benefited greatly from involvement in several committees over the years. I would highly recommend getting involved. The responsibilities are not onerous, and the payout is priceless.
In addition to taking advantage of SoAP’s opportunities for involvement while filling out your CV, you can further capitalize on SoAP membership through mentorship. Thoughtful mentorship has had a profound influence on my life personally and professionally. I would not be where I am today if it was not for the amazing mentorship I received over the years. My path to a PhD was far from conventional. While enrolled in community college, I was extremely fortunate to have a professor pull me aside and ask me about my future because they saw potential in me. I am in this position today as a direct result of that conversation and others like it. Hence, I view all my professional interactions as an opportunity to pay it forward.
Some of the best advice I ever received (from a member of this society, no less) was to get your mentorship a la carte. Science is a team sport and few people are good at everything. Finding people with experience in areas where you seek further development is vital to becoming the professional you want to be. SoAP membership provides you access to a community of addiction professionals from around the globe that, in my experience, are available and willing to help. Throughout my SoAP membership, I have personally received guidance and mentorship in treating addictive behaviors, applying to internship and faculty positions, running clinical trials, and translating scientific findings to a lay audience. Perhaps most importantly though, my mentorship experiences have instilled the importance of remembering where I come from and what my past experiences bring to addiction psychology, why I chose this career, and that I am a whole person with a life outside my profession. In fact, SoAP has an official mentorship program meant to connect research staff, trainees, and early career professionals with mentorship in numerous areas related to addiction research, education, and treatment.
In summary, I believe selecting SoAP as your professional home will provide you with the opportunity to showcase your talents while cultivating new experiences, all within a special community of addiction professionals. It did for me. In my role on the executive committee, I view it as my responsibility to ensure that these opportunities are available to you as well.
I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or share this information with others you think might benefit from it. I’m available at firstname.lastname@example.org.