Tracy Scull, PhD  Senior Research Scientist

Tracy M. Scull, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist at innovation Research & Training, Inc. She received her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Duke University and has extensive basic and applied research experience in the area of child development. At iRT, Dr. Scull’s work has concentrated on the prevention of risk behaviors (e.g., substance use experimentation and early/risky sexual behaviors) in children and adolescents using media literacy education.

Current projects and responsibilities:

  • Principal Investigator – Middle School Media Literacy for Reproductive Health (Phase II SBIR grant)
    • This project will complete the development of Media Aware – Sexual Health, a prevention program that focuses on teaching media literacy education to students in grades 7-8 to increase critical thinking skills about media messages, increase intentions to abstain from sexual activity, and increase the likelihood of safe behaviors should sexual activity occur. The ultimate goals of the program are to prevent early sexual behaviors, STI transmission, and teen pregnancy.
  • Principal Investigator – Media Literacy for Sexual Health in Older Adolescents (R21 grant)
    • This project is to create and test the feasibility of a brief web-based media literacy education intervention to reduce risky sexual practices (e.g., intoxicated sex, unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, sexual violence) in community college students.
  • Principal Investigator – Web-based Resource for Youth about Clinical Research (Phase I SBIR contract)
    • There is a need for more pediatric clinical trials with children and adolescents; however, many youth with chronic diseases and illnesses, along with their families, are not aware of or educated about the benefits of participating in clinical research. Thus, the goal of the proposed Phase I application is to create an interactive, multimedia, and developmentally appropriate web-based resource to educate children and adolescents about clinical research.

Previous projects and responsibilities:

  • Principal Investigator – Middle School Media Literacy for Reproductive Health (Phase I SBIR grant)
  • Principal Investigator – Evaluation of the TV show ‘16 and Pregnant’ (National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy contract)
  • Project Director – Media Detective – Elementary School Substance Abuse Prevention (Phase II SBIR grant)
  • Principal Investigator – Media Detective Family (Phase I SBIR contract)
  • Principal Investigator – Media Detective Family (Phase II SBIR contract)
  • Principal Investigator – Media Detective Family Night (Phase I SBIR grant)
  • Project Director – Media Ready – Middle School Substance Abuse Prevention (NC state contract)
  • Project Director – Media Aware – High School Substance Abuse Prevention (Phase I SBIR grant)
  • Co-Investigator – Media Aware – High School Substance Abuse Prevention (Phase II SBIR grant)

Overall, Dr. Scull has extensive experience developing and implementing research studies with children and adolescents; working with teachers, principals, and school district personnel; collecting and managing large data sets; managing project staff; conducting parametric and non-parametric statistical analysis; writing technical reports and peer-reviewed publications; and disseminating research findings.

Dr. Scull has presented numerous workshops and trainings on media literacy and media literacy education programs to diverse local and national audiences including teachers, parents, researchers, prevention specialists, and community anti-drug coalition members. Presentations have been conducted at meetings like the Community Anti-drug Coalitions for America (CADCA) Mid-Year Training; the National Prevention Network (NPN) Annual Prevention Research Conference; the annual APPCNC Conference (now SHIFT NC); the National SBIR/STTR Conference; the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) Safe, Orderly, & Caring Schools Conference; the North Carolina Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Studies (NCFADS) Summer Training Session; the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) Research Summit; and the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescents.


Recent publications:

Scull, T.M., Malik, C.V., & Kupersmidt, J.B. (in press). Understanding the unique role of media message processing in predicting adolescent sexual behavior intentions in the United States. Journal of Children and Media.

Scull, T. M., Kupersmidt, J. B., Malik, C. V., & Keefe, E. M. (2017). Examining the efficacy of an mHealth media literacy education program for sexual health promotion in older adolescents attending community college. Journal of American College Health, 00-00. doi:10.1080/07448481.2017.1393822

Elmore, K. C., Scull, T. M., & Kupersmidt J. B. (2017). Media as a “super peer”:  How adolescents interpret media messages predicts their perception of alcohol and tobacco use norms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 46(2), 376-387. PMC5243166

Scull, T.M., Kupersmidt, J.B., & Weatherholt, T.N. (2017). The effectiveness of an online, family-based media literacy education program for substance abuse prevention in elementary school children: Study of the Media Detective Family program. Journal of Community Psychology, 46(6), 796–809.

Scull, T. M., Kupersmidt, J. B., Malik, C. V., & Keefe, E. M. (2017). Examining the efficacy of an mHealth media literacy education program for sexual health promotion in older adolescents attending community college. Journal of American College Health, 00-00. doi:10.1080/07448481.2017.1393822

Scull, T.M., Malik, C.V., Kupersmidt, J.B., & Moallem, M. (2016). Rethinking sexuality education:  A web-based solution. In Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2016 (pp. 2344-2348). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Scull, T.M., Ortiz, R., Shafer, A., Brown, J., Kupersmidt, J.B., & Suellentrop, K. (2015). The effects of viewing and discussing episodes of 16 & Pregnant on high risk adolescents’ pregnancy-related outcomes.  Journal of Media Literacy Education, 7(2), 1-11.

Parker, A. E., Kupersmidt, J. B., Mathis, E. T., Scull, T. M., Sims, C. (2014).  The impact of mindfulness education on elementary school students:  Evaluation of the Master Mind program.  Advances in School Mental Health, 7(3), 184-204. doi: 10.1080/1754730X.2014.916497

Scull, T.M., Malik, C.V., & Kupersmidt, J.B.  (2014). A media literacy education approach to teaching adolescents sexual health education.  Journal of Media Literacy Education, 6(1), 1-14.

Scull, T.M., Kupersmidt, J.B., & Erausquin, J.T.  (2013).The impact of media-related cognitions on children’s substance use outcomes in the context of parental and peer substance use.  Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(5), 717-728. doi: 10.1007/s10964-013-0012-8

Kupersmidt, J.B., Scull, T.M., & Benson, J.W. (2012).  Improving media message interpretation processing skills to promote healthy decision making about substance use:  The effects of the middle school Media Ready curriculum. Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, doi:10.1080/10810730.2011.635769

Scull, T.M. & Kupersmidt, J.B.  (2011).  An evaluation of a media literacy program training workshop for late elementary school teachers.  Journal of Media Literacy Education, 2(3). 199-208.

Kupersmidt, J.B., Scull, T.M., & Austin, E.A. (2010).  Media literacy education for elementary school substance use prevention:  Randomized efficacy study of Media Detective.  Pediatrics, published online:  August 23, 2010. doi:  10.1542/2010-0068

Scull, T.M., Kupersmidt, J.B., Parker, A.E., Elmore, K.C., & Benson, J.W.  (2010). Media-related cognitions and adolescent substance use in the context of parental and peer influences.  Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 31(1)1-9. doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9455-3

Barrett, T.M. & Needham, A. (2008). Developmental differences in infants’ use of an object’s shape to grasp it securely. Developmental Psychobiology.

Barrett, T.M., Traupman, E., & Needham, A. (2008). Infants’ visual anticipation of object structure in grasp planning. Infant Behavior & Development.

Barrett, T.M., Davis, E.F., & Needham, A. (2007). Learning about tools in infancy. Developmental Psychology, 43(2), 352-368.

Lewis, M.A., Kalinowski, C.T., Sterba, K.R., Barrett, T.M., & DeVellis, R.F. (2006). Interpersonal Processes and Vasculitis Management. Arthritis Care & Research, 55(4), 670-675.

Needham, A., Barrett, T., & Peterman, K. (2002). A pick-me-up for infants’ exploratory skills: Early simulated  experiences reaching for objects using ‘sticky mittens’ enhances young infants’ object exploration skills. Infant Behavior and Development, 25(3), 279-295.