UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Peter C.M. Molenaar, distinguished professor of human development in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, has received the 2013 Sells Award for Distinguished Mulitvariate Research from the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology (SMEP). The Sells Award is given annually to recognize an individual who has made distinguished lifetime achievements in multivariate experimental psychology. The award represents the highest honor bestowed by the society in recognition of contributions to the field.
Molenaar's research focuses on the application of mathematical theories to solve substantive psychological issues. An important aim of psychology is to describe, explain and guide processes occurring at the level of individual subjects. Molenaar's research has shown that the appropriate methodology required for realizing this aim has to be based on person-specific analyses of intra-individual variation, such as time-series analysis. His new person-specific methodology is being applied to a variety of psychological processes, including mother-child interactions, personality development, cognitive aging and brain imaging.
An important feature of person-specific methodology is the ability to apply state-of-the-art engineering techniques, in particular computational control theory, to optimally guide learning and developmental processes, as well as disease processes. Molenaar currently is applying control theory to patient-specific optimal treatment of Type I diabetes and asthma. In addition, he is applying his mathematical theories to solve problems related to the use of artificial neural networks to investigate nonlinear epigenetic processes, innovative structural equation modeling techniques to analyze longitudinal data and the use of nonlinear dynamical models of developmental stage transitions.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 2005, Molenaar was a professor of psychological methodology and of mathematical psychology and psychometrics at the University of Amsterdam, where he also served as head of the Department of Methodology. He earned bachelor's degrees in experimental psychology and philosophical logic at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands in 1972 and 1976, respectively. He also earned master's degrees in mathematical psychology and psychophysiology at the University of Utrecht in 1976. In 1981, he received a doctorate degree in social sciences from the University of Utrecht.