Issue: April 2014
eNews from The Methodology Center
Linda Collins

In May 1994, Linda Collins, a promising young professor who had recently come to Penn State from the University of Southern California, was asked to lead a unit in the College of Health and Human Development called The Methodology Center. Linda immediately began work to make her vision -- establishing a preeminent research center focused on the development of new methods for social, behavioral, and health science research -- a reality.  


Just two years later, The Methodology Center received a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) P50 Center of Excellence award that, through 18 continuous years of funding, has allowed Linda to build the center she envisioned. During that time, Methodology Center researchers have published hundreds of articles on a broad array of methodological topics, including optimization of behavioral interventions, construction of adaptive interventions, and analysis of intensive longitudinal data.


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Donna Coffman

When parents know more about their teenage children's activities, those children are less likely to engage in risky behavior (e.g., delinquency, substance use initiation). Though this connection is widely acknowledged, it is not clear whether the knowledge is a determining factor in the reduced risk because many other factors are involved in the parent-child relationship. In a recent article in Prevention Science, the authors use propensity scores to examine the causal nature of this relationship. The research team includes former Penn State graduate student Melissa Lippold, Methodology Center Principal Investigator Donna Coffman, and Edna Peterson Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research Mark Greenberg 


Read more.

Read the article. (Journal access required.) 

Linda Collins, Daniel Rivera, Kevin Timms, Megan Piper

Dynamical systems models were developed in engineering to describe complex systems using differential equations. Methodology Center Director Linda Collins and Daniel Rivera, professor of chemical engineering at Arizona State University, recently completed a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Roadmap grant (R21 DA024266) in which they applied dynamical systems models to improve behavioral interventions. 


In a new publication, the authors applied dynamical systems models to better understand what contributes to relapse during the smoking cessation process. The article, "A dynamical systems approach to understanding self-regulation in smoking cessation behavior change," appears in the May 2014 special issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research. The research team included Daniel's graduate student Kevin Timms, Daniel, Linda, and Megan Piper, assistant professor at the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.


Read more.

LCA Stata Plugin

The Methodology Center is pleased to release the latest version (1.1) of the LCA Stata Plugin for conducting latent class analysis (LCA). The software is available for download free of charge. The new version includes functionality requested in our recent software survey, including 

  • the ability to assess identification of models with covariates via multiple random starts,
  • an indication of which latent class is the best match for each individual, and
  • the option to generate 20 random draws for each individual's class membership based on posterior probabilities.

The users' guide has also been updated and revised based on user feedback. Please email with any questions.


Read more or download the software

image of US Capitol Dome

At this year's Society for Prevention Research Annual Meeting in Washington D.C., Methodology Center Researchers Stephanie Lanza and Sara Vasilenko will present a pre-conference workshop on the time-varying effect model (TVEM). TVEM is a valuable tool for intensive longitudinal data such as EMA.   


Read more or register for the workshop.


We have created a set of pages to allow researchers to quickly see our new publications. We have a recent articles page for the entire center and a separate one for each research area.   


A one-week course on Complex Systems and Obesity in Human Populations will be offered at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Graduate Summer Institute of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, June 16 - 20, 2014.


Read more or apply.

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The Methodology Center
204 East Calder Way, Suite 400
State College, PA 16801

Phone: 814-865-3253
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