Pick Training Tracks

Training Tracks

Pre and postdoctoral trainees will choose from four training tracks as their primary area of study. Trainees will also choose a secondary track to enhance the transdisciplinary nature of their experience.  Applicants please review the list of secondary mentors for your training track affiliation. Applicants should indicate one primary training track of interest along with a preferred primary mentor, and a secondary track(s) along with preferred secondary mentors from that track.


BH - Biology and Health Track

BH Track Lead – Hannah Schreier 

Primary mentors – Hannah Schreier, Erika Lunkenheimer, Idan Shalev

One of the most important challenges for researchers focusing on the biology and health following CM experiences will be to better understand the complex ways in which multiple key physiological systems act in tandem to shape the lifelong health and well-being trajectories of CM survivors. A substantial literature already links CM to increased risk of many common chronic diseases of aging, behavioral well-being, and all-cause mortality later in life. In addition to research on distinct health problems, the field is also beginning to understand the ways in which CM alters some of the physiological mechanisms that, in the long run, may result in these increased morbidity and mortality rates. The CMT32 will provide trainees with the opportunity to study these very questions, including via the TCCMS prospective cohort study of 900 youth who experienced CM and matched comparison youth without a CM history and other R01/21 projects led by Program Faculty. Many Program Faculty are also interested in how youth’s psychosocial environments and experiences shape associations between CM experiences and health.

Primary and secondary mentors in the BH track have expertise in many areas of research, including, but not limited to:

  • Neuroendocrine regulation (Dorn, Engeland, Schreier, Shalev, Wadsworth)
  • Inflammation/immunity (Engeland, Schreier)
  • Biological aging (Shalev)
  • Genetics/Epigenetics (Gould, Shalev, Vandenbergh)
  • Metabolomics (Patterson)
  • EEG collection (Buss, Gatzke-Kopp, Perez-Edgar)
  • Autonomic nervous system activation (Buss, Gatzke-Kopp, Lunkenheimer, Wadsworth)
  • General biomarkers of stress (Engeland, Schreier, Shalev, Smyth)
  • Use of wearables/EMA (Almeida, Buxton, Smyth)
  • Morbidity/mortality following CM (Almeida, Buxton, Gatzke-Kopp, Noll, Schreier, Smyth)

Trainees may choose to focus on any (but not all!) of the above. Prior experience in these areas of research is not required. If desired, training in human subjects research and/or animal research and/or hands-on bench science will be provided as part of the T32 experience in associated laboratories.


DP - Developmental Processes Track

DP Track Lead – Erika Lunkenheimer 

Primary mentors – Erika Lunkenheimer, Jennie Noll, Yo Jackson, Carlo Panilio, Hannah Schreier

CM creates disruptions to the normative life course and contributes to failures to achieve skills or resolve key components of major developmental stages throughout the lifespan. These disruptions increase the likelihood that patterns of maladaptation, psychopathology, and other impairments due to CM will develop and persist, creating a cascade of negative sequelae for subsequent developmental stages. CM tends to recur over time, making a developmental approach to the timing and course of CM essential in understanding its effects. Accordingly, to improve scientific knowledge on CM, developmental scientists in the study of CM will work to model the process of CM incidence, the cascading effects of stage-salient disruptions, and the heterogeneic variation in pathways of CM with appropriate developmental theoretical frameworks and sufficient ecological and measurement validity. Examples of integrative, emerging research areas within the context of development that the CMT32 will provide include having trainees participate in projects (such as the TCCMS Cohort Study) on the systemic longitudinal effects of CM on caretaker-child relations, the intergenerational transmission of trauma and maltreatment within families, the nature and scope of heterotypic development in youth exposed to CM, and the potential moderating or mediating effects of services and community factors; all of which require a developmental lens to better understand the impact of CM on the developing child and his/her environment.


PT - Prevention and Treatment Track

PT Track Lead – Chad Shenk

Primary Mentors – Chad Shenk, Yo Jackson, Brian Allen, Kent Hymel, Jennie Noll, Sheridan Miyamoto, Christian Connell

The Prevention and Treatment (PAT) Track provides comprehensive training in the most effective behavioral interventions for the child maltreatment population. This includes in-depth review of the content of commonly applied behavioral interventions, the research designs used to evaluate these interventions across a variety of health outcomes, and their mechanisms of action. Specifically, T32 Fellows receive training in: 1) well-established child maltreatment interventions, including the Nurse-Family Partnership, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), 2) how to identify and engage intervention targets across multiple levels of analysis (e.g. biology, behavior, family, community ) using the experimental therapeutics and science of behavior change frameworks, and 3) how to execute gold-standard as well as innovative methods for evaluating the effectiveness of child maltreatment interventions, including randomized controlled trials, factorial designs, and sequential multiple assignment randomized trials. Extending beyond the classroom, trainees work on active research projects that include partnerships with the State of Pennsylvania on the testing and dissemination of a prevention program aimed at reducing alleged and substantiated child sexual abuse, the optimization of treatments for psychiatric disorders by evaluating the effectiveness of individual components in engaging transdiagnostic mechanisms, novel applications of PCIT and TF-CBT to improve child, family, and foster care placement outcomes, the scaling of forensic nursing evaluations for sexual abuse and assault in rural communities, and program evaluation with County and State administrative data to identify cost-effective intervention strategies for families at risk for child maltreatment. Extensive collaboration across training tracks allows for a bidirectional translation of scientific findings where basic research from one or more tracks can inform the delivery of interventions in applied settings and where delivery of interventions in applied settings informs future basic science research in multiple training tracks.


PADS - Policy and Administrative Data Systems Track

PADS Track Lead – Christian Connell

Primary Mentors – Christian Connell, Sarah Font, Max Crowley, Sheridan Miyamoto

Children impacted by CM and their families are frequently involved in myriad of systems including child welfare, physical and behavioral health care, juvenile and adult corrections, education, and other public systems. This complexity requires that CM researchers develop expertise in systems-focused research methodologies that leverage complex and integrated administrative data systems to elucidate individual, family, and contextual processes leading to maltreatment exposure and its effects, provide more accurate means of detection and prediction of adverse outcomes, and also provide a means of empirically testing the efficacy of treatment and intervention response to maltreatment.90-92 These advances are critical to developing more effective evidence-based policies and practices to prevent CM or ameliorate its negative effects on children and youth. The T32 will provide trainees with a range of opportunities to develop expertise in these methods. Participating faculty have extensive experience in the use of administrative data to conduct rigorous, policy-relevant research across child welfare and other public systems. Trainees will engage in the design and conduct of research using complex integrated and administrative data through active research projects with core faculty via the TCCMS and other R-level projects. Trainees will have access to a wide range of local, state, and national administrative data systems maintained in the Penn State Administrative Data Accelerator including child welfare systems, health care, juvenile justice and corrections, and other child and family serving systems.

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