Rice Receives Early Career Award for Prevention Research
Eric Rice, assistant professor of the USC School of Social Work, has been recognized with the John B. Reid Early Career Award from the Society for Prevention Research for his innovative research on HIV and substance abuse prevention among homeless youth.
The award is given annually to honor a promising new investigator in the field of prevention research, which focuses on the prevention of social, behavioral and physical health issues as a path to promoting overall well-being.
“It’s nice to be recognized by an interdisciplinary group of people at a national level that is very actively involved in the research that I am pursuing,” Rice said. “That they see me as someone who has the potential to contribute to the field is very rewarding.”
Officials with the Society for Prevention Research highlighted Rice’s commitment to prevention science and his focus on the use of new technologies and social network theories to promote healthy behaviors among disadvantaged youth.
“His scholarly accomplishments, his forward-thinking research agenda regarding the utilization of social media for social network-based prevention programs, his dedication to the next generation of prevention scholars, and his commitment to community-based leadership efforts make him ideally suited for this award,” officials noted in the award citation.
Since joining the USC School of Social Work in 2009, Rice has received roughly $2.5 million in federal funding to investigate how advances in technology and social media can be used to positively impact the health and behavior of adolescents.
Working with youth populations is a major focus of prevention researchers, Rice said, given that long-term health and behavioral problems in adulthood can be avoided by intervening with clients at an earlier age. However, his focus on the applications of technology to promote well-being among homeless youth is an innovative and emerging field of study.
“I think it’s growing, but it’s relatively underdeveloped,” he said.
Rice is also interested in exploring the social networks of disadvantaged youth, another area of research that is gaining more interest among prevention investigators. He is currently leading a $2.1-million study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health to examine the impact of social networks on HIV/AIDS risk behaviors of homeless youth, with the ultimate goal of developing new interventions and bolstering positive sources of support within those networks.
“A lot of prevention programs are community-level programs or are designed for small groups,” he said. “Both levels of programming inherently involve social networks, yet the social network science aspect of prevention research is also relatively underdeveloped. I’m trying very seriously to understand how social network processes work in the context of people’s lives and how we might be able to utilize those insights in prevention.”
In addition to citing his strong record of publishing manuscripts in leading journals, such as Prevention Science and the American Journal of Public Health, award officials also noted Rice’s dedication to community-based service and involvement with local organizations that serve homeless youth.
Rice said he was particularly humbled to be the first person to receive the award after it was named in honor of John Reid, a pioneer in the field of prevention research who died earlier this year.
“It’s nice to have your heroes think that what you’re doing is good work,” he said.
- Master of Social Work