Tess Drazdowski

The JCCAP Future Directions Forum presents professional development training for early career researchers and showcases interdisciplinary research in child and adolescent mental health. This JCCAP Q&A features Tess Drazdowski from Virginia Commonwealth University, winner of the 2017 JCCAP Future Directions Launch Award. Tess’s award was presented for her research on conduct problems among children and adolescents.

T&F: Tell us about your research.

Tess Drazdowski: Right now, the conduct problem that I am researching the most is substance use and looking at how substance use, and people who have histories of being in the justice system and how those correlate and influence each other. And I'm really interested now in looking at venting and treating substance use in emerging adults, and who have substance use and histories of justice system involvement.

I have a grant going in today looking at using peer professional coaches to provide substance use services along with vocational educational coaching to emerging adults with substance use and justice system involvement through a provision of parole services here in Oregon. So that's one of the areas that I'm focusing on along with prescription drug misuse including opioids and marijuana use in adolescents and emerging adults as well.

Tess was working at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine when her first coauthored paper was published.

T&F: Can you describe your experience being published for the first time? What did you find most helpful along the path to publication?    

TD: It's great to find good mentors and people who support you in your goals especially, you know, we talk about research here and your research goals and clinical goals. So when I was there as research coordinator and I was working with very productive research teams, and they were very supportive and understood the publishing process and how to get published. So they really took me under their wing and guided me through the whole process of writing a paper from developing hypotheses by looking at the literature, and then doing secondary data analysis on data that they had already collected, did those relations exist as I thought they did in the data, and then when I found things that did exist as we theorized, putting them together for presentations and publications.

So the first time I did it, I was not the lead author. I think I was second author, second or third author, and I remember being very nervous to upload. It was my responsibility to get all the text boxes and everything in order. I did it and it was very exciting to get that first publication and to see my name come up on a paper. And I remember I sent it to my parents and to my other, my previous mentors, and it was a very big moment of pride for me.

It's interesting now that I've done it this many times that I don't feel that same level of nervousness anymore which I think is interesting. Some things I feel like you always get a little nervous for, but now it's just like okay, we'll go through, we see what happens. We get the feedback and you know, we move forward. But I remember being very nervous the first time I did it to make sure all the pieces were there and all the T’s were crossed and I’s were dotted.

T&F: Do you have any advice for current early career researchers on how to publish?

TD: I believe finding good mentors is first and foremost, finding people who are interested in the same things you're interested in researching and publishing an studying, and seeking their advice and help. And I know some of the best advice I got was when you're writing a paper. Just check through your own references and see where are the people where you're citing, where has their work been published, so that's a good first step.

But then also just talking to your mentors who know the fields better, and seeing where they suggest you publish, and getting advice. Then sometimes just going on and using like the analytics that are available from Google or Web of Science or others places to see where different journals stack up in terms of impact factors, to decide what would be appropriate of your work as well, and just reading the recent articles. That's something I always do still, is I pull up the most journal, the most recent publications from the journal, and see if those types of papers that they're publishing are similar to the one that I'm doing that I think would be a good fit for that journal or not.

T&F: Can you describe your trajectory out of grad school and into the job market?

TD: I've been very fortunate to have amazing mentors who are really interested in me as a person, and what I'm interested in. And even though I did both clinical and developmental psychology, I decided through my grad program and experiences that I had there that I really enjoyed research, and was looking for 100% research opportunities.

And so out of grad school, because I did want to get licensed, I did complete a post-doc and I did at the University of California Los Angeles, UCLA, and I did it in their integrated substance abuse programs. I picked a program that was research intensive, where really the clinical work that I did was extra and it was primarily research.

Then while I was there I started applying for jobs, and was really fortunate that I landed and was offered a job in an ideal environment for me, so I'm now at the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene, Oregon, doing 100% research, which for me is really exciting. I focus on work with youth and families, so it's a great fit for me, and just the whole for me, work-life balance and mentality around working with families and understanding that they are employees who have families of their own has just been a really good balance so far.

So, I think I had great support at every level, and I still go back to my adviser, one of my advisers from grad school who has just been so helpful. She just wrote me another letter for a grant I'm putting in this week, and just knowing that I have the support and understanding of people who have gone before me has been really helpful. Then just also taking the time to reflect on okay, what do I really like, what's a good fit for me, and then just being fortunate that there are openings at places that that can work.

Congratulations, Tess!

Watch Tess's 2017 acceptance remarks here.