Members of the substance use research core offer a variety of innovative and interdisciplinary courses relating to research, public health and popular culture.

Those courses include:

Spit for Science: Conducting and Understanding Research (BIOL 391/PSYC 494)

In the fall of 2011 VCU launched Spit for Science: the VCU Student Survey. This project is following consecutive cohorts of incoming VCU freshman classes across their college years and beyond. The goal of the project is to understand how genetic and environmental factors come together to influence a variety of health-related outcomes in the VCU undergraduate population.

A big focus is on substance use and emotional health problems, such as depression, since the life stage that college students are entering is a high risk period for the onset of these problems. Research assistants will be involved in project-related tasks, which may include recruitment, marketing, data collection and analysis, educational events and other research activities.

Students will work in teams to develop research questions and analyze Spit for Science data. Online activities will include blogging and use of social media to read and evaluate research articles, interact with faculty and staff about research and wellness, reflect on your experiences and course journey, investigate current events and issues related to the goals of Spit for Science research, and communicate with peers about scientific research.

Classes will also include meetings with different faculty involved in the project where students will review research papers and learn about topics related to the goals of the research.

This 3-credit course is run each fall and spring semester through Psychology (Psyc 494) and Biology (BIOL 391). Registration in the course is by application only. Contact Dr. Amy Adkins ( for an application. The process is highly competitive, but we welcome students from all majors and class levels to apply.

Click here to read the syllabus and an article about the class on the COBE blog!

The Science of Recovery (HUMS 291)

VCU loves students in recovery from addiction. Learn about the science of recovery, build recovery skills, learn about resources in our community and beyond and find meaningful ways to be of service.

Through lectures, guest speakers and individual projects, students will learn of VCU resources designed to help them in their recovery and build a rewarding and successful life and career.

Genes, The Environment and Human Behavior (HUMS 391)

Have scientists solved the nature vs. nurture debate when it comes to human behavior? If a disorder runs in families, how do we know whether the cause is genetic or a result of the family environment? Are intelligence and personality hardwired? This course will explore these questions and more as we study human behavioral genetics. In particular, we will discuss how genes influence our behavior and what role the environment plays. We will also study dimensions of human behavior, ranging from IQ and personality to clinical disorders such as alcoholism. Positive and negative factors contributing to each dimension will be investigated as we seek connections to our personal experiences, other coursework and the world around us.

This 1-credit, 5 week course is offered through Psychology (HUMS 391) and is restricted to Psychology majors or minors. To find out when it will be offered again, please contact Dr. Amy Adkins (

To learn more about the course read the syllabus here.

Love and Drugs (HUMS 391)

We are surrounded by popular media portrayals likening love to mind-altering substances—Billie Holiday’s lover goes to her head; Beyoncé is drunk in love; the Weeknd compares his lover to the anesthetic Novocain.

In this course, we will examine the science behind portrayals of romance and substances of abuse in popular music and movies using developmental, social psychological, and neurobiological perspectives. We will cover topics such as the neurobiology of love and addiction; the effects of relationships on substance use; and the effects of substance use on relationships. At the end of the course, students will use these perspectives and knowledge to critically review a song or movie of their choice.

This 1-credit, 5 week course is offered through Psychology (HUMS 391) and is restricted to Psychology majors or minors. To find out when it will be offered again, please contact Dr. Jessica Salvatore.

To learn more about the course check out the syllabus here and an article written by VCU News!