I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and the UMass Computational Social Science Institute. My research interests include social determinants of health, culture, and social network dynamics. If we better understand how, when, and why people are connected, we can gain insight into how health and culture changes at the individual, interpersonal, and population level over time.
Prior to my UMass position, I was on the faculties at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. My post-doctoral training was with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program at UC Berkeley and UCSF. My research is currently supported by the National Institutes of Health (NICHD, NINR, NHLBI), and has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
PhD in Sociology, 2010
MA in Sociology, 2007
BA in Sociology, 2003
I am interested in evaluating how individuals' social relationships and interactions shape their health behaviors. For example, how do a person's changing set of relationships with people in their lives affect their health-related decisions, physical health, and mental health? Understanding how social ties to others at a given stage of one's life can shape one's future prospects. How does who you know when you were 5 years old affect your health at age 55?
Pediatric obesity has increased two- to three-fold since the 1970’s and continues to be a major public health concern. The proposed research on adolescent school-based social networks will uniquely identify leverage points that can be exploited to improve interventions targeting physical activity, screen time, and dietary intake. We anticipate that next generation interventions will be able to use the information obtained from this study to improve their ability to prevent excess weight gain in youth thereby reducing the prevalence of related health risk factors and co-morbidities. NICHD R01HD086259-OIA1, Co-Investigator. James Kitts & John Sirard, Co-PIs
Activity behaviors change dramatically across adolescence, as youth experience the overt physical changes of puberty and begin to make decisions about their social settings that will impact their current and future health. In general, physical activity levels decline (especially in girls and racial/ethnic minority populations), screen time spent with televisions, video games, and computing devices increases, and sleep is truncated. Further investigation is needed to evaluate pathways through which adolescent activity behaviors, relationship environments, and pubertal development may interact to shape later cardiometabolic risks and racial/ethnic risk disparities; this will inform the design of new interventions that leverage social ties to interrupt the development of pre-disease pathways during the life course. NINR 1R21NR017154-01A1, Mark Pachucki & Lindsay Hoyt, Co-PIs
Using wearable sensor and other passive technologies to measure social relationships and their sequelae in ways that complement (and sometimes challenge) prior self-report or observational approaches to understanding social structure. In what ways does precise quantification of interactions provide new insights into social dynamics? In which cases does an individual's own perceptions of their relationships provide useful information?
I welcome research partnerships that relate to social networks, culture, and health across the lifecourse, and am a firm believer in team-based science. I collaborate broadly with colleagues and students - I hold the view that working on problems from multiple perspectives advances scientific progress.
I am an core faculty affiliate of the UMass Computational Social Science Institute, member of the Umass Institute of Diversity Sciences health disparities working group, and affiliate of the UMass Center for Community Health Equity Research.
I am an instructor for the following courses at University of Massachusetts, Amherst:
Undergraduate SOC356: Social forces, health, and the life course (Fa2015, Sp2016, Sp2017, Fa2017, Sp2018)
SOC297F: Food as Culture: Eating in Social Context (Sp2018)
Graduate SOC797NH: Relationships, Networks, and Health (Sp2017)
SOC697P: Publishing Seminar (Sp2018)
SOC797CN: Culture and Networks (New course being offered Sp2019)
I am always happy to write letters of recommendation for students. My policy on letters is here.