News Archive

October 21, 2014

Susan MurphyWe are delighted to announce that Methodology Center Principal Investigator Susan A. Murphy has been named a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies. Susan’s record of innovation, particularly her development of the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART), has earned her many recent accolades, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award in 2013.


IOM is an independent, nonprofit organization. Members of the Institute seek to provide the best available evidence on matters related to health to inform decision making on medical matters by the government and public. Being named to the Institute of Medicine is a huge honor for any scientist working on public health issues. In 2011, The New York Times said, “The Institute of Medicine is the nation’s most esteemed and authoritative adviser on issues of health and medicine, and its reports can transform medical thinking around the world.”

October 20, 2014

MD2K Center for Excellence logoFour Methodology Center affiliated scientists, Susan Murphy, Inbal Nahum-Shani, David Conroy, and Bonnie Spring, are part of a new research center, the MD2K Center for Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge. MD2K’s mission is to develop tools and methods to gather and analyze data from mobile devices in order to facilitate the early detection and prevention of health problems. The new center is funded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) new Big Data to Knowledge initiative, which is also supporting Methodology Center Investigator Donna Coffman’s career development award


September 26, 2014

Mark Stemmler

Mark Stemmler, professor of psychological assessment at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, has written a new book, Person centered methods: Configural frequency analysis (CFA) and other methods for the analysis of contingency tables. 


Mark is a long-time friend of The Methodology Center, and last month, he visited us from Germany to teach one of our one-credit graduate courses. While he was here, Mark sat down with the Methodology Center’s science writer, Aaron Wagner, to briefly chat about Mark’s new book and the value of CFA.


September 25, 2014
classroom with kids and teacherHead Start is the largest federally funded preschool program for disadvantaged children. Some people have questioned its worth because research has shown relatively small impacts on cognitive and social skills. In a forthcoming article in Child Development, Methodology Center Affiliate Brittany Rhoades Cooper and Methodology Center Scientific Director Stephanie Lanza perform latent class analysis (LCA) on the Head Start Impact Study dataset to identify subgroups of children who have similar home environments and caregivers.


The authors then examine cognitive, behavioral, and relationship skills measured two years later to determine whether the effects of Head Start vary across these subgroups. Their approach could have broad application by researchers interested in using latent class analysis to understand differential effects of an intervention by simultaneously considering multiple potential moderators. 


September 24, 2014

Rachel SmithWhen diagnosing genetic disorders like Alpha-1, physicians use genetic tests. Communication about the results of those tests may influence the overall well-being of the person who has been diagnosed, his or her spouse, and the couple. Methodology Center Investigator Rachel Smith and a team of Penn State researchers including Methodology Center Principal Investigator Donna Coffman are investigating this type of spousal communication with the goal of designing targeted messages to support married adults managing genetic test results, associated genetic-based illness, and genetic stigma. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) is funding this research. The proposed work will use methods developed at The Methodology Center to design theory-driven, audience-targeted messages and to enrich our knowledge base about the little-understood social implications of genetic tests.

September 23, 2014


We are pleased to release the latest versions of PROC SCADLS and PROC SCADGLIM (1.2) for variable selection. These procedures are useful tools for researchers who are selecting variables from datasets where the number of potential variables is very large. These updates fix minor bugs and allow the procedures to be run on 64-bit versions of Windows. Methodology Center Principal Investigator Runze Li leads the Center’s research on variable selection in high-dimensional data sets. 


Read more or download the software

August 27, 2014

researchers Kari and AngieEach year, we hold regular meetings of special interest groups open to all researchers and graduate students working with and developing cutting edge research methods. The groups provide a forum for individuals to discuss their own research and to learn from others. Topics include analyzing complex data, mixture modeling, optimizing behavioral interventions, and causal analysis. 


The schedule for this fall and contact information is now available. For specific dates, please see The Methodology Center’s calendar.


August 26, 2014

Danny AlmirallWe are pleased to announce this semester’s Taste of Methodology workshop on the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART) for constructing adaptive interventions. The December 16 workshop will be presented by Methodology Center Investigator Daniel Almirall, research assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.


Interventions that adapt at the right times can improve participant outcomes while decreasing the cost and burden of the intervention. SMART designs provide the data needed to construct high-quality adaptive interventions.


Taste of Methodology is a series of brief workshops for Penn State faculty that offers an overview of innovative methods along with lunch. This semester’s workshop will present the concepts and applications of SMART in order to give faculty an efficient way to assess SMART’s potential for their research. 


August 19, 2014

Susan Murphy: photo credit to MacArthur FoundationWe are pleased to announce that the University of Michigan has named Susan A. Murphy distinguished university professor for her research, leadership, and service. Susan is a Methodology Center principal investigator, Herbert E. Robbins Distinguished University Professor of statistics, research professor at the Institute for Social Research, and professor of psychiatry.


Susan's research focuses on development of innovative research approaches to improve the personalization of treatment. She developed the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART), which led to her being named a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellow in 2013. SMART is an experimental design tool that allows scientists to build empirically based interventions that adapt according to patient characteristics and response to treatment. While development of SMART continues, Susan is also investigating the construction of just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs), which use real-time data from mobile technologies to deliver personalized behavioral interventions exactly when interventions are needed.


August 1, 2014
Aleksandra Slavkovic
Every year, The Methodology Center offers three, one-credit courses in research methodology for Penn State graduate students. We have a late addition to this year’s schedule. Aleksandra Slavkovic, associate professor of statistics, will teach STAT 597B, “Data Privacy Methods for the Social and Behavioral Sciences.” This course will provide an overview of the data privacy problem and statistical and computational techniques needed to understand the risks and benefits inherit in data sharing. 
Register for STAT 597B on the Registrar’s website

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