Lyscha Marcynyszyn is deep into work on a dissertation examining the relationship between children's self-regulation and socioemotional development.
It's a project that depends on sophisticated statistical methods, which is why Marcynyszyn-a fifth-year graduate student in developmental psychology at Cornell University-decided to apply for APA's Advanced Training Institute (ATI) on "Longitudinal methods, modeling and measurement in contemporary psychological research." The week-long course, held at the University of Virginia in June, was sponsored by APA's Science Directorate.
Attending the ATI turned out to be "an incredible experience on many levels," says Marcynyszyn. "It changed how I think about and model longitudinal data." One technique in particular-growth curve analysis-has helped her rethink the way she analyzes developmental variables that interact with each other through time, she says.
Like other ATIs, the longitudinal methods course, led by University of Virginia psychologist Jack McArdle, PhD, offers theoretical lectures as well as some hands-on practice. This year, there were 30 attendees, including six advanced graduate students. The rest were a mix of postdocs, faculty members and other PhD-level researchers.
For students such as Marcynyszyn, who have or expect to have rich longitudinal data sets to explore, the ATI provides instruction in new data analysis techniques and the theories behind them.
For methodologically oriented students, such as University of Notre Dame graduate student and ATI participant Ken Kelley, it offers an opportunity to learn about cutting-edge techniques from some of the researchers who are developing them. Students at this year's ATI, for instance, learned about growth mixture models, a relatively new method of identifying individuals who change in different ways over time.
"Because longitudinal research is my main area of interest, I was familiar with some of the topics covered," says Kelley. "However, several of the topics are literally just being developed and thus were new to pretty much everyone at the workshop."
ATIs also provide an interactive environment in which students can learn from experts and each other.
"It's one thing to be working on your own, reading papers or picking your adviser's brain," says another of the ATI attendees, Daniel Bontempo, a graduate student at Penn State University. "It's quite another thing to go through the material in a structured fashion and with an enriched opportunity to get answers."
Two other ATIs also were held this summer. In late June, an ATI on functional magnetic resonance imaging was held at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown, Mass. In August, researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development led an ATI on large-scale databases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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