Spit for Science set for Spring semester survey

Originally published March 5, 2012 in The Commonwealth Times

The Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics will conduct the spring portion of the Spit for Science study beginning this week.

The study, which is open to all VCU freshman students over the age of 18, is a university-wide research project that aims to examine the effect of college life on students.

Approximately 2,000 freshmen – nearly 60 percent of the incoming class – participated last fall, said Spit for Science project manager Lisa Halberstadt. The project aims to involve more than 80 percent of the freshmen class in the spring survey.

“Ultimately, we hope to use what we learn to feed back and develop better intervention and prevention programming specific to the needs of VCU students,” Halberstadt said.

The study is being directed by researchers Kenneth Kendler and Danielle Dick of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics. It will follow VCU students through their years in college, beginning with the current freshmen class.

According to the study’s website, Spit for Science combines genetic background and personal information to better understand how genetic predispositions combine with environmental factors that may contribute to alcohol and other substance abuse problems.

“This really is a representative VCU study. The rate of alcohol use, smoking, other drug use … exactly map on to what it looks like in the big surveys that have been done across other college campuses. Our findings should be applicable to college students everywhere,” Dick said.

Dick said she believes that the study will contribute to not just to healthier outcomes for students at VCU, but have a national impact as well.

“This is the first project of its kind ever, anywhere, where it’s this big university-wide opportunity that incorporates both the survey component and the genetic components, so that we really have a more holistic picture of all the things that contribute to those outcomes and human health essentially,” Dick said.

All eligible students will receive emails and letters with links to the online survey during early March. The survey will be available for students starting March 5 and will run through April.

Students will be able to pick up their survey payments and T-shirts at the Franklin Street Gym between March 19 and March 30, Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Survey payments and T-shirts will also be available at the University Student Commons kiosk during the month of April, Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.



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