Eric Soule Approaching Dissertation Defense

Published: May 8th, 2014

Category: Student News

Eric 4.16 (5)Eric Soule is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health. After his upcoming dissertation defense in May, Soule will be working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

His dissertation is focused on hookah and alcohol use among young adults. Specifically, he is assessing whether hookah and alcohol use are related, beliefs regarding concurrent alcohol and hookah use versus hookah use alone, and if hookah use behaviors differ for those who engage in both hookah and alcohol use versus hookah use alone.

By conducting a systematic review of the literature, Soule found that while limited research exists on hookah and alcohol use among young adults, the two behaviors are positively correlated with one another. In addition, his research demonstrated that concurrent hookah and alcohol use is common and that some individuals believe that adding alcohol use to hookah smoking will improve the overall experience. Furthermore, he found that people who typically combine hookah with alcohol use smoke hookah more frequently than people who do not typically combine the behaviors.

His upcoming postdoctoral position at VCU is in the Department of Psychology’s Center for the Study of Tobacco Products (CSTP). The CSTP co-directors are Dr. Thomas Eissenberg and Dr. Robert Balster. The CSTP is funded with an NIH/FDA P50 grant to develop a Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS).

Soule’s Phd advisor, Dr. Barnett, expressed her enthusiasm for Soule’s upcoming postdoctoral position. “FDA and NIH partnered and awarded just 14 TCORS across the U.S. in fall, 2013. This is a prestigious postdoctoral position for Eric as he begins his career as a scientist studying alternative tobacco products. His hookah research thus far can be applied to e-cigarettes as well, and it is an exciting time in both e-cigarette and hookah work as the FDA recently proposed new regulations for both products. I’m very excited for Eric’s opportunity and know he’ll contribute greatly to the team at VCU.”

The CSTP’s primary focus is to demonstrate a model that might be used to evaluate new tobacco products, especially modified risk tobacco products. The model uses electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as an example of a novel tobacco product needing evaluation. There will be several components to this effort that include a randomized control trial where participants will use e-cigs in their natural environment over 6 months, a human laboratory project where participants will use e-cigs under a variety of different conditions, an engineering component that will examine e-cig emissions under different conditions, and a qualitative/quantitative component in which e-cig users will be asked about their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs associated with e-cig use. Although Soule will be involved in all of the projects on the grant, his focus will be on the qualitative/quantitative component.

When asked about his experience pursuing a doctoral degree, Soule expressed his gratitude for his wife’s encouragement, as well as faculty who have been actively involved in his doctoral training.

“Finishing my PhD has been a long and challenging journey, but well worth the effort. I feel like this program has truly prepared me for taking the next steps towards becoming an independent researcher. In addition to all the faculty members who have played active roles in my doctoral training, I also need to thank my family for all the support they have given me. In particular, my wife Morgan has provided me constant encouragement which has ultimately allowed me to accomplish this major achievement.”