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Penn State Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) Program Overview PDF Document

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TCORS Training Program Overview

The overall goal of the Penn State Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) is to develop a leading state-of-the-art research and training infrastructure that will inform policy on the regulation of tobacco products. Penn State University, College of Medicine was one of 14 proposals funded to establish TCORS programs to generate research to inform the regulation of tobacco products to protect public health and train the next generation of tobacco regulatory scientist.

To achieve these goals, the Penn State TCORS is uniting the resources of the Penn State College of Medicine with the main University Park campus in State College, PA, Harvard University and George Washington University. A number of Penn State's facilities will be utilized to foster innovative research and training including a newly built smoking laboratory, MRI labs, and our NIH-funded Clinical &Translational Science Institute. The TCORS will allow us to add additional expertise, such as a Smoking Biomarkers Core Laboratory that will perform specialized assays for tobacco science for all TCORS.

A central theme of our TCORS is the study of tobacco regulatory science in vulnerable (e.g. low socioeconomic status, mental disorders) and minority populations. This will be accomplished through three complementary research projects that share common methodologies, common core multidisciplinary approaches, and common leadership with the overarching aim of relevancy for tobacco regulatory policies.

Penn State University recognizes the more general needs of a Centers for Excellence for tobacco regulatory research in general and strongly supports interdisciplinary efforts and diversity in both its research and its training and educational programs. This commitment will be realized through the development of a dedicated educational program for tobacco regulation scholars and a pilot project program that fosters innovative ideas and research methods for testing and studying tobacco harm. The Penn State World Campus will facilitate our efforts in training young scientists in tobacco regulatory research and collaborating with other TCORS. These efforts are designed to sustain the TCORS concept in the future.

Goal of the TCORS Training Program

Scholars achieve basic (“core”) competencies in: 1) social, behavioral, biological science pathways to health damage from tobacco exposures; 2) basic methods of epidemiology outcome evaluations form a public health framework; 3) basic models and theories of legal and policy bases on the regulation on production, marketing consumption and access to societally restricted products (e.g., drug and drug devices); and 4) the application of these basic multidisciplinary theories, methods and practices to tobacco regulatory sciences. The latter competencies will include how changes in tobacco production; packaging; pricing; nicotine delivery and intake; and related social control of access or perceptions of tobacco, may impact key individual-level markers and processes as addiction response; nicotine weaning or cessation; levels of pathology or physiological dysfunction; preferences or values toward tobacco use or products; and social or contextual effects (marketing, use restrictions, modeling) on tobacco use or non-use. In Figure 1, the TCORS training model provides structured interdisciplinary training, mentoring, and application of tobacco regulatory science knowledge-base to academic research and dissemination to build research independence.

Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) Training Model Diagram

Degree Requirements

TCORS predoctoral Scholars are track-unique and capitalize on the general (‘core’) first year Graduate School departmental program predoctoral coursework to begin the process of critically discussing and applying their core coursework to a regulatory framework.

Biobehavioral Health (BBH) and Health Policy and Administration (HPA) pre-doctoral students will be eligible for the TCORS program after completing their ‘core’ departmental program coursework in their first academic year (YR 01) and upon successfully passing the PhD qualifying exam. These core departmental courses are listed below. At this juncture, scholars will have a strong understanding of either social and cognitive models of addiction (BBH) or health policy and evaluation sciences (HPA). Scholars during their second academic year, (YR02) will undertake a customized set of elective courses (below) designed to cross-train scholars in behavioral health and health policy models to serve as basis to develop broad, interdisciplinary models, in effectiveness of tobacco regulation and policy regardless of major concentration.

BioBehavioral (BBH) Track

Core BBH Courses (15 Credits)


BBH 501 Biobehavioral Systems: Theory and Processes


BBH 502 Health: Biobehavioral Perspectives


BBH 503 Biobehavioral Systems: Processes and Integration


BBH 504 Behavioral Health Intervention Strategies


BBH 505 Behavioral Health Research Strategies


Biobehavioral Health Elective Courses

BBH Cross-Training (6 Credits)


HPA 545 Introduction to Health Economics


HPA 562 Economics Applications in Health Services Research


Health Policy and Administration Track

Core HPA Courses (12 Credits)


HPA 510 Intro to Health Services Financing & Policy


HPA 511 Research Seminar on Health Services Financing & Policy


HPA 520 Intro to Health Services Organization and Delivery


HPA 521 Research Seminar on Health Services Organization and Delivery


Health Policy and Administration Elective Courses

HPA Cross-Training (6 Credits)


HPA 597 Neurobiology of Addiction


BBH 501 Biobehavioral Systems: Theory & Processes


TCORS Specific Training

All TCORS scholars will complete a 6-credit tobacco regulatory sciences specific component (below) taught on-site and the PSU World Campus platform. Scholars may select additional coursework either in the cross-training electives or at large from the broad offerings of graduate courses based on advisor approvals.

TCORS Tobacco Sciences Required Courses (6 credits) All Scholars


PHS 597a TCORS Applied Tobacco Research


PHS 597b TCORS Lab


PHS 597c TCORS Tobacco and Nicotine Biomarkers


Scholars will participate in monthly TCORS Seminar Series, which includes a networking lunch, speakers on scientific and career development topics, and opportunities to present TCORS research and to “workshop” their draft manuscripts and grant applications.

Research and Dissertation

Scholars will conduct an approved doctoral dissertation involving a tobacco-focused research project and scientific paper with guidance of the TCORS mentoring team. Scholars will make presentations at TCORS-wide meetings; scientific meetings; and submit papers for peer-reviewed publication.

TCORS Multidisciplinary Mentor Team

Each scholar will be assigned a mentor team representing BBH, HPA and Public Health Sciences. One mentor will be designated as the primary mentor. Scholars are required to meet regularly with their primary and secondary mentors; meetings with the primary mentor must occur at least weekly. Mentors contribute specific disciplinary expertise and resources in the context of an interdisciplinary research project (i.e., unique theoretical or methodological content which the scholar integrates with the contributions of multiple mentors from several disciplinary perspectives) providing the scholars with guidance on advancing their research and professional development.


Each student will be awarded a full cost stipend (tuition plus material expenses) for 3 years, extending their training to their dissertation.

Number of Student Scholars Selected for TCORS Training Program

Two second year pre-doctoral students will be recruited for years 2 and 3 (2014 and 2015) of the TCOR program for a total of four pre-doc trainees.

How to Apply

The process of applying for admission to Penn State’s Graduate School requires the following application materials, some of which are submitted to the Graduate School (Part 1) and others of which are sent directly to the BBH or HPA graduate program (Part 2A or Part 2B):

Part 1 - Apply to the Graduate School at Penn State

Every applicant is required to submit an online application to the Graduate School. If you are ready to proceed to the application but have NOT read the Graduate School requirements, please visit that website at The online application can be accessed through the Graduate School Admissions and Program Information Portal. In addition to the items delivered to the Graduate School, formal admission to the doctoral program depends on satisfactory completion of the candidacy examination. Doctoral students must demonstrate competency in spoken English including reading, technical writing, listening, and speaking.

Part 2A- Apply to the BBH Graduate Program

Requirements for the BBH graduate program can be found at:

All BBH students must take five core courses in biobehavioral health (total of 15 credits), 6 cross-training credits in HPA courses and 6 additional credits in TCORS courses. The remainder of each student’s program is designed individually in consultation with the student’s mentor team.

-- OR –-

Part 2B- Apply to the HPA Graduate Program

Requirements for the HPA graduate program can be found at: /hpa/graduate/phd. All HPA students must take five core courses in HPA (total of 12 credits), 6 cross-training credits in BBH courses and 6 additional credits in TCORS courses. The remainder of each student’s program is designed individually in consultation with the student’s mentor team.

Application deadline is 1/14 for Biobehavioral Health (BBH) and 2/1 for Health Policy and Administration (HPA).


Please contact Co-Directors, Drs. Roger T. Anderson, and/or Marianne M. Hillemeier,, regarding any questions about the TCORS Training Program.