Whether or not you believe there's any truth in the saying "opposites attract," it certainly has had a significant impact on Ty Schepis' career path. Schepis, who describes himself as "cautious, self-controlled, focused and Type A," has spent most of his academic career studying individuals whose traits are at the opposite end of the personality spectrum.
Schepis focuses his research on addiction and the psychological impulses that lead people to become victims of its grip. His curiosity about the behavior of people who overindulge in risky and self-destructive behavior fuels his studies.
"What makes people who have gotten heavily involved in drug use do this to themselves? I am interested in why people do things that make no sense to me," says Schepis.
In 2009, Schepis joined Texas State's Department of Psychology after three years as a research fellow at the Yale School of Medicine. With a particular interest in addiction as it applies to young adults, Schepis finds the campus environment ideal for his academic interests.
"The 18- to 25-year-old age range has the highest rates of drug use for pretty much anything. They're the most frequent binge-drinkers, more likely to be marijuana users and more frequently use prescription meds in inappropriate ways," says Schepis.
Statistics confirm the extent of the problem, as indicated by these alarming figures from a 2013 survey:
Schepis works to make students aware of the risks involved with the use of any addictive substance. Whether he is seeking students to participate in a smoking cessation program or developing opportunities for research assistants to help conduct studies and analyze results, Schepis looks for ways to get students engaged and involved in academia.
"I like to work with undergrads on questions they're interested in. It's fun when I have students come to me and say 'I'm interested in X.' We can then work together, or if I'm doing a bigger project, I can have undergrad students help me out," says Schepis.
As an assistant professor, Schepis teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in abnormal psychology and serves as an advisor for master's theses. He also contributes to the lives of students beyond the classroom and the research labs as a committee member of the university's Alcohol and Drug Advisory Council. The council works to improve the effectiveness of alcohol and drug abuse prevention and intervention efforts for Texas State students in order to enhance academic success, create a culture of accountability and respect, and promote behavior changes that reduce health and safety risks. It is the perfect place for Schepis to share his research results and to directly apply his findings to the benefit of students.
"I'm happy to contribute to the conversation," says Schepis. "I hope my research can be a piece of a puzzle that helps people live more fulfilling, productive lives."