Biobehavioral health student receives 2019 Alumni Association Dissertation Award

April 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nichole Sell, a predoctoral graduate student in biobehavioral health, received the Alumni Association Dissertation Award for outstanding professional accomplishment and achievement in scholarly research on April 11 at the Graduate Student Awards Luncheon held at the Nittany Lion Inn. The prestigious award recognizes Sell’s research in the social science category.

Her dissertation, “An In-depth Examination of Protective Behavioral Strategies to Reduce Alcohol-Related Consequences,” is the first study to examine how well and consistently college students use protective behavioral strategies, such as limiting drinks consumed and going home at a designated time, according to Robert Turrisi, professor of biobehavioral health and affiliate of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, and Sell’s dissertation adviser.

While other studies measure protective behaviors by asking how often students use them, Sell’s study focuses on how effectively the protective behaviors are being practiced.

The study gathered data from Penn State students through focus groups, online surveys and diary reports to compare alcohol use, protective behaviors implemented, implementation quality and alcohol-related consequences.

Sell says that she hopes that her research will inform clinical practices and increase the efficacy of prevention and intervention efforts.

“Nichole is the strongest and most prepared individual that I have ever encountered. I think she will make a most outstanding scientist, professor, colleague and mentor as her career unfolds,” said Turrisi.

Sell's other dissertation committee members are Kimberly Mallett, research professor for the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center; Michael Russell, assistant professor of biobehavioral health; Jennie Noll, professor of human development and family studies; Laura Klein, professor of biobehavioral health, and Patricia Koch, professor emeritus of biohbehavioral health. Sell noted that all of her committee members have been instrumental in providing advice and guidance to strengthen her project analytically and conceptually. Her current work is funded through an F31 predoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health.

This summer, Sell plans to move to Buffalo, New York, to start a postdoctoral fellowship in the Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions at the University of Buffalo.

Last Updated April 26, 2019