Rutgers Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center (RTPRC)

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The Rutgers Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center (RTPRC), funded by NIDA, focused on developing methods of intervention during a student’s key developmental transitional periods. The Center included established investigators representing a wide range of scientific disciplines and specialties from the core, joint and visiting faculty of the CAS, noted investigators from two other established research programs, and prevention partners. The broad focus and goal of RTPRC was acquisition of knowledge about the manner in which individuals, transitioning key developmental phases (including turning points in drug use staging), acquire and integrate information about substance use behavior into their behavioral repertoire and the application of that knowledge in the design of prevention interventions. The RTPRC was organized around two cores (Administrative and Resource) and three project areas. The Project areas were: (1) Enhanced peer-based interventions during the transition to high school; (2) Developing brief interventions for drug abuse prevention for college students; and (3) Memory processes emotional regulation and developmental stage of drug exposure. Project Cores and Projects were multidisciplinary and spanned the range of drug abuse prevention research.

Research Aim(s): 

The broad conceptual focus is reflected in more specific RTPRC- wide theoretical, research, and programmatic themes. These include: 

  • Developing a knowledge base regarding basic self-regulatory and learning processes (particularly explicit and implicit learning and memory) potentially fundamental in the development of substance use, that can be used to inform prevention program development (including maturational and developmental aspects) and applying that knowledge base to the development of RTPRC prevention models;
  • Applying our knowledge base regarding drug use development (with particular emphasis upon transitions between use stages) to the development of RTPRC prevention models; 

  • Applying our knowledge base about transitional phases and processes in normative human maturational and developmental phases and processes in designing and implementing RTPRC prevention interventions;

  • Identifying potentially malleable risk and protective factors that predict, mitigate and/or moderate the impact of prevention interventions on use behaviors in RTPRC target populations and applying them in development of model interventions and outcomes;

  • Developing a knowledge base of relevant, current theories and methods of communication that broaden the understanding of the communication dynamics associated with efforts at prevention that can be used in the development and implementation of RTPRC model programs;

  • Developing an interactive model environment that promotes and enhances interactions between basic and applied researchers and prevention practitioners in order to facilitate translation and integration of knowledge between etiologic research and prevention programming.

Active Research Projects: 

RTPRC is organized around two cores and three project areas:


  • The Administrative Core (AC). The AC is directed by Dr. Robert J. Pandina and is charged with the responsibility of providing an intellectual framework and scientific leadership for the conduct of activities of all specific research projects. In addition, the AC is responsible for monitoring and guiding progress of individual projects as well as coordination, interaction and integration among project areas and with the larger community. The AC is responsible for maintaining the functional infrastructure necessary for efficient and effective execution of all center activities. Finally, the AC is responsible for maintaining the training of students and faculty and the dissemination of research findings to practitioners, educators and researchers. The AC conducts specific administrative, communication and integrative function and activities including: steering committee, bimonthly peer reviews, bimonthly prevention seminars, annual retreat and forum, advisory board activities, selection and funding of pilot projects and pre-and post doctoral students.

  • The Resource Core (RC). The RC is directed by Dr. Helene R. White and provides on-going assistance regarding key issues related to theory building, content reviews, measurement, research design, and analysis. It provides necessary exposure to relevant theoretical and substantive topics and perspectives and training in the use of advanced analytical techniques for all investigators and students. The core is home to the permanent resource consultant core who provide ongoing consultation on cross cutting substantive and methodological issues.

Project Areas

  • Project Area 1. "Enhanced Peer Based Interventions During Transition to High School". This project is directed by Dr. Valerie L. Johnson and aims to integrate knowledge about adolescent transitions and challenges, drug use behaviors, and youth focused prevention initiatives in the development and implementation of new programming through collaboration of researchers and practitioners.

  • Project Area 2. "Developing Brief Interventions for Drug Abuse Prevention for College Students"
    This project is directed by Dr. Helene R. White and aims to identify, assess, and modify strategies to assist students during the transition to college to reduce their substance use and related problems. The project team, comprised of alcohol and drug treatment providers, prevention specialists, drug researchers and communication experts, focuses on developing, modifying, implementing and evaluating various "brief" interventions that are cost effective and practical.

  • Project Area 3. "Memory Processes, Emotional Regulation, and Developmental Stage of Drug Use Exposure". 
    This project is directed by Dr. Marsha E. Bates and aims to advance our understanding of the manner in which memory, learning, and emotional response contribute to the regulation of substance use behavior, and of the manner in which this information can be used to inform prevention. Understanding the contribution made by basic memory and learning processes to self-regulation can be used to advance knowledge in the design and implementation of prevention programs. Hence, a better understanding of the these fundamental processes can provide important clues as to the manner in which substance use becomes integrated into the behavioral repertoire and, by extension, can provide clues as to the manner in which prevention “learning” opportunities can shape the nature of that integration. We have been studying the link between memory and emotional reactivity and regulatory processes, as indexed by psychophysiological measures, during developmental stages of drug use transition.

Investigators: Robert J. Pandina, Ph.D.
Valerie L. Johnson, Ph.D.
Helene R. White, Ph.D.
Marsha E. Bates, Ph.D.
Eun-Young Mun, Ph.D.
Suchismita Ray, Ph.D.
Brenna Bry, Ph.D.
Lea P. Stewart, Ph.D.
Lisa Laitman, MSEd, C.A.D.C.
Paul Lehrer, Ph.D.
Consultant Core: Steven G. Buyske, Ph.D.
James Langenbucher, Ph.D.
Brian Maher, Ph.D.
Charles Maher, Ph.D.
Gail Milgram, Ed.D.
Robert Monaco, M.D., M.P.H.
Advisory Board: Jean Denes, M.A.
Maurice Elias, Ph.D.
Denise Gottfredson, Ph.D.
Paul M. Roman, Ph.D.