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R25-funded Psychiatry Research Residency Track

Director's Welcome
General Information
Links to UCSD Psychiatry Fellowships

Director's Welcome
Welcome to the UCSD Psychiatry Research Residency Track! Our program aspires to educate future Academic Psychiatrists, and to help nurture their early academic careers by building important skills in research, clinical care, teaching and mental health advocacy. We have the unique advantages of being a small and individualized program (1-3 trainees per year), supported by the remarkable clinical and scientific resources within UCSD and its affiliated Neuroscience community. The UCSD Department of Psychiatry is home to a world-class faculty – many of whom trained within our Department – that is dedicated to the success of our trainees. Our graduating Research Track trainees often move from our Psychiatry Residency to positions within one of our 16-18 specialized Fellowship training programs. The successful career paths of our graduates are described on our "Recent Trainee Accomplishments" page.

Our program has a deep commitment to enhancing diversity in Academic Psychiatry and in mental health research. Four out of our nine graduates to-date come from backgrounds that are under-represented in medicine and research; 50% of our graduates and current Residents are women. UCSD Psychiatry Research Residents have earned substantial diversity research funding from the NIMH, NIAAA and the APA. Our program also sponsors a Summer Research Fellowship for Under-represented Medical Students. Fourteen medical students have completed this program to-date, and of those who have already graduated medical school, two-thirds entered Psychiatry Residencies, including two who pursued Psychiatry Research Tracks.

We welcome applicants with backgrounds in both basic and clinical research, and we particularly encourage applications from trainees who are considering an academic research career in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

A general description of our program follows below, and the broader reaches of our Department can be appreciated by exploring our Departmental website.

The challenges that we face in bringing hope and better life quality to individuals and families with mental illnesses will only be met by educating the future generations of Psychiatric physician-scientists. I am deeply committed to this process. So please read-on, and contact me if I can answer any specific questions!

Warmest regards,

Neal Swerdlow, MD, PhDNeal R. Swerdlow, M.D., Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Research Residency Track 
UCSD Department of Psychiatry

General Information
Since 1987, the UCSD Department of Psychiatry has supported a designated Research Residency Track (RRT), with the goal of training future leaders in neuropsychiatric research and Academic Psychiatry. The RRT is directed by Neal Swerdlow, M.D., Ph.D., and Michael McCarthy, M.D., Ph.D. serves as the RRT Associate Director.  The UCSD Psychiatry RRT is currently funded by an NIMH R25 Award, through June, 2023.

Each year, 1-2 applicants match into separate NRMP slots assigned to this program; M.D. and M.D., Ph.D. candidates are eligible for this program, with the most competitive applicants demonstrating both outstanding clinical skills and a longstanding commitment to research on the biology of mental illness. The absolute expectation is that RRT trainees will develop into highly skilled Psychiatrists, world-class scientists, effective teachers and powerful advocates for patients and families with mental illness. In fact, our Program is dedicated to making sure that this happens!

Even before starting the RRT, trainees are assigned a mentor to help ease their transition into our Program and begin the process of professional development. The mentor is selected to be a senior investigator in the trainee’s area of interest.  During the PGY1, RRT trainees meet with their mentor and the RRT Director, and develop a personalized training plan designed to match the trainees’ research interests with the most productive training laboratories and mentors in our Department. Specific developmental benchmarks are clarified for their longitudinal progress through the RRT. Trainees and their identified mentors then develop and submit a research proposal for a 2-month PGY2 dedicated laboratory experience.

Typical PGY2 projects involve exposure to laboratory and/or clinical experimentation, followed by a year-long independent scholarly literature review. RRT trainees often identify specialized clinical rotations during their PGY2 year that can synergize with their research interests. 

After approval of a proposed PGY3 project, RRT trainees spend 40% effort (2 days per week) of their PGY3 year in a mentored research experience. Additional expectations for this year include publication of a scholarly review (from the PGY2 rotation) or empirical experimental findings, and participation in a national or international scientific meeting.

The mentored research experience is expanded to 70% effort in the PGY4 year, during which time RRT Residents also develop applications for Fellowship Training or individual career development awards. Typically, RRT trainees avail themselves of one of the many outstanding fellowship opportunities within the UCSD Department of Psychiatry, while other trainees progress directly into academic faculty series.

Candidates interested in the UCSD Psychiatry Research Track are encouraged to contact Dr. Swerdlow directly, early in their MS-IV year (