Berkeley’s new Computational Social Science Training Program welcomes first cohort of new fellows for the Fall 2020 semester

July 30, 2020

The Computational Social Science Training Program (CSSTP) enthusiastically welcomes its first cohort of new fellows for the fall 2020 semester at UC Berkeley!

The CSSTP is a new two-year multidisciplinary training program in advanced data analytics for predoctoral students in the social and behavioral sciences. Our first-ever cohort this fall represents students from Berkeley’s Schools of Social Welfare and Public Health, the Department of Sociology, and the Goldman School of Public Policy.

Monica De La Cruz is a PhD student at Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, with extensive experience conducting qualitative, community-based participatory research. De La Cruz’s interests focus on ways to ameliorate economic inequality as a means to positively impact children’s health, specifically for communities of color. Prior to coming to Berkeley, she managed the Pediatric Advocacy Program at the Stanford School of Medicine, working with an interdisciplinary team to examine the impact of local interventions on addressing basic needs insecurity. “As a CSSTP Fellow, I aim to broaden my research skill set, specifically in quantitative methods, in order to utilize large datasets and to explore and simulate the longitudinal effects of income support interventions on children’s health,” says De La Cruz. “In addition, I aim to draw on critical theory, centering equity and ethics in the research process to reclaim the use of quantitative methods to benefit communities this methodology has traditionally harmed.”

Elleni Hailu is a PhD student in epidemiology at Berkeley’s School of Public Health. Her research interests address the ways in which place-based markers of structural racism (for example, mass incarceration) are biologically embedded across the life span to influence racial inequities in cardiovascular and adverse maternal health outcomes. She aims to employ interdisciplinary theories and biopsychosocial frameworks, along with novel data analytic methods, to conduct research that informs policies intended to dismantle processes that maintain the cycle of health inequities. “The CSSTP’s deliberately designed infrastructure around building a cross-disciplinary environment with data and social science scholars provides a promising and exciting venue for students like me to conduct methodologically and theoretically sound research that has policy-level impact,” says Hailu. “This then creates a critical opportunity for transforming inequitable institutions and practices to ultimately improve population health.”

Jessie Harney is a second-year graduate student and PhD candidate at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy whose research interests lie in criminal justice system reform with a specific focus on mental health and improving outcomes for those whose lives are impacted by the carceral system. “I am excited to be joining this new program, and to have the opportunity to learn from other fellows and mentors, embrace an interdisciplinary approach, and bolster my computational skill so that I can improve my ability to create effective, transparent, and replicable research in pursuit of a more restorative and equitable justice system,” Harney says.

Ángel Mendiola Ross is a PhD student in sociology with a designated emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies. He conducts research at the intersection of (sub)urban sociology, race and inequality, housing, and policing. Their current project empirically tests evidence of racial threat and renter threat in California suburbs with a focus on communities on the receiving end of gentrification and displacement from the coastal urban core. “I was drawn to the CSSTP because of its rigorous training and mentorship model, intentionally interdisciplinary approach, and focus on health research,” says Ross. “I value multidisciplinary intellectual environments because they help uncover disciplinary blinders, strengthen our research, and enhance our ability to translate findings to diverse sets of audiences.”

Mahader Tamene is a PhD student in epidemiology at Berkeley’s School of Public Health. A public health scholar dedicated to facilitating health and justice for underserved populations globally, her research focuses on maternal and child mental health disparities, particularly community-based interventions that address the structural forces driving these disparities. “Through the CSSTP, I’m looking forward to building unique analytic skills and learning alongside an interdisciplinary and cross-sector cohort of students aligned toward health equity,” says Tamene. “I’m excited for the opportunity this program will provide to more collaboratively and intentionally think about translating research into real-world impact.”

A five-year, $1.2 million grant from the NIH’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research makes the program possible. The program supports the mission of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development. It will prepare the students to take advantage of advances in computing and data science that can enable their research.

This two-year program will be led by David Harding, BIDS Senior Fellow, professor of Sociology, and faculty director of the Berkeley Social Science Data Laboratory (D-Lab); BIDS Executive Director David Mongeau; and Maya Petersen, MD, PhD, chair of the Division of Biostatistics at the Berkeley School of Public Health.

“The need for outstanding scholarship addressing structural inequities in our society using the interdisciplinary tools of social science, health and data science has never been more clear,” says Petersen. “We are delighted to welcome this incredible inaugural cohort of CSSTP Fellows who are clearly poised to become leaders in the crucial work.”

The new cohort will begin work on August 19.


The Berkeley Social Science Data Laboratory (D-Lab) provides the UC Berkeley community with services and support for advanced research design and experimentation in data-intensive social science, including consulting and advising, training and provisioning for software and infrastructure needs, and support for other campus data resources and services.

The Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) has co-hosted Data Science Fellows in the social sciences since its inception in 2013. A range of domain research areas have thus far been represented — including sociology, psychology, cognitive and brain science, and social welfare — in collaboration with the departments of Sociology, History, and German, the Berkeley School of Social Welfare, the Berkeley Institute for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), the Digital Humanities and D-Lab, the Medieval Studies Program, the Data Science Education Program, and the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

The Berkeley School of Public Health is at the forefront of solving complex public health problems through groundbreaking research, world-class education, and community-engaged action. This network of leaders across all health sectors works in collaboration with a range of domain science and humanities disciplines — including engineering, computer science, social welfare, public policy, journalism, international development, business, and law — with a legacy of impact and innovation at local and global levels.