Rachel Smith, Ph.D. | The Methodology Center

Rachel Smith, Ph.D.

Rachel Smith, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Communication Arts & Sciences

Investigator, The Methodology Center

Co-Hire, Huck Institute


The Methodology Center

The Pennsylvania State University

400 Calder Square II

State College, PA 16801



Personal Website

CAS Website

CIDD Website





Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2003 (Communication)

M.S., University of Arizona, 1999 (Communication)

B.S., Boston University (Broadcast TV/ Film); B.A., Boston University (Psychology)


Research Interests & Collaborations

I am collaborating with Donna Coffman on causal inference in interdependent situations (e.g., how a husband’s communication shapes his wife's communication). I am also collaborating with Linda Collins on issues of factorial mediation in experiments attempting to test communication theories.


I am working with Bethany Bray and Megan Piper to investigate whether different smokers maintain different kinds of support networks, and whether particular support networks are more likely to be associated with attempts to quit smoking. The dynamic version of this question is to assess whether the participants’ social networks change over time and as a function of their attempts to quit, and we are using latent transition analysis for this analysis. Identifying different profiles (or audience segments) of support networks would allow for one to target at-risk groups in future interventions.


In addition, I collaborate with Jill Findeis, Jonathan Lynch, Matt Thomas, and Andrew Read on a project addressing malaria and food security in Mozambique. The ultimate goal is to diffuse new malaria and agricultural technologies that translate well into the lives of their users. To do this, we need to understand and model the complex system dynamics involved in user uptake. These activities are supported through Penn State’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Our activities also include Ag 2 Africa: Development of an International-US Learning Laboratory, funded by the USDA. The overarching goal is to create a self-sustaining learning laboratory with sites in Africa and the US that trains multidisciplinary graduate-undergraduate teams to understand key food systems-disease interactions. The approach is to use on-the-ground and in-class training, using the very best methodologies and systems thinking, to build this understanding. The project will involve collaborations with the University of Johannesburg NS international and national agencies active in Eastern Africa, including the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) and the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM).



Alpha-1 & Couples: Beliefs, Communication, and Well-Being

Alpha-1 Foundation Pilot Project

Role: Principal Investigator


Family Health Diffusion System Project

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Role: Consultant (James Dearing at Kaiser Permanente, PI)


Dyadic influence in genomic medicine: Couples beliefs, disclosures, & wellbeing.
National Human Genome Research Institute, R21 HG007111
Role: Principal Investigator




Recent Publications

Smith, R. A. (2014). Testing the model of stigma communication with a factorial experiment in an interpersonal context. Communication Studies, 65(2), 154-173.

Smith, R. A. (2014). Social network analysis. In B. B. Whaley (Ed.), Research methods in health communication: Principles and application. New York, NY: Routledge.

Smith, R. A., & Hughes, D. (2014). Infectious disease stigmas: Maladaptive in modern society. Communication Studies, 65(2), 132-138.

Smith, R. A., Greenberg, M., & Parrott, R. (2014). Segmenting by risk perceptions: Predicting young adults' genetic-belief profiles with health and opinion-leader covariates. Health Communication, 29(5), 483-93.

Smith, R. A., Hernandez, R., & Catona, D. (2014). Investigating initial disclosures and reactions to unexpected, positive HPV diagnosis. Western Journal of Communication, 78(4), 426-440.

Smith, R. A., M'ikanatha, N.M., & Read, A.F. (2014). Antibiotic resistance: A primer and call to action. Health Commun, 1-6.

Smith, R. A., Wienke, S.E., & Baker, M. (2014). Classifying married adults diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency based on spousal communication patterns using latent class analysis: Insights for intervention. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 23(3), 299-310.

Smith, R. A., Wienke, S.E., & Coffman, D. (2014). Alpha-1 couples: Interpersonal and intrapersonal predictors of spousal communication and stress. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 23(2), 212-220.

Smith, R. A., & Findeis, J. L. (2013). Exploring audience segmentation: Investigating adopter categories to diffuse an innovation to prevent famine in rural Mozambique. Journal of Health Communication, 18(1), 6-19.

Smith, R. A. (2013). Network analysis: Adventures in the grapevine and the spider’s web. In J. Nussbaum (Ed.), Readings in communication research methods (pp. 83-94). San Diego, CA: Cognella.

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