Conference participants at Nuffield College

This spring, the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science (LCDS) will be welcoming back Dr Ramina Sotoudeh as an Academic Visitor. In this alumni spotlight, Ramina reflects on her career journey from an Associate Member at LCDS between 2021-2023 to Assistant Professor of Sociology and Statistics & Data Science at Yale University.


Dr Ramina SotoudehHow did you become interested in demography, statistics and data science?

In graduate school, I became interested in using genetic data (alongside traditional social data) to answer social science questions. Many of the questions I subsequently examined were related to population dynamics, such as fertility, or health.  My experience at Oxford and learning from my colleagues at the Centre, exposed me to all the interesting questions and puzzles in demography, which shape a large portion of my research interests today.


Why did you choose the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science?

I was fortunate to be an Associate Member of LCDS and work with the sociogenomics group during my time as a Nuffield College Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow (PPRF). The sociogenomics group at LCDS is conducting some of the field’s most innovative and important studies. I feel lucky to have been part of such an intellectually and socially vibrant community and have learned so much from them.


Tell us more about your research at the Centre

My research examines dynamics of health behaviours and disparities, how genes interact with the social environment to jointly shape outcomes, and the role of cultural and network processes that lead to macro-level patterns. While at the Centre, I worked on developing a variance polygenic index to capture how genes contribute to the plasticity of phenotypes. I worked on another project examining whether standard genomic controls tend to over control for population stratification. I also have several new projects that started with former colleagues at Oxford and LCDS like Evelina Akimova and Ginevra Floridi (who also became my close friends). I am excited to continue working on these projects during my visit this spring!


How did these experiences help you in your new role at Yale University?

During my time at Oxford, I was inspired by LCDS’ research-intensive intellectual community and its focus on ambitious and high impact projects. My time there exposed me to new research fields, perspectives, and forms of interdisciplinary scholarship. My conversations and collaborations with colleagues sharpened my knowledge of demography and population science and I learned about all the varied, interesting work being done under the umbrella of population science. I also had the chance to learn from some of the most distinguished scholars in the social sciences and demography, for which I am forever grateful. As a result of these experiences, my work has since become larger scale in its focus and more ambitious in its scope. At Yale, I have also sought to reproduce the collaborative spirit and teamwork that is very much the ethos of LCDS.

At Oxford, I also organised my first conference, with Katarzyna Doniec, which was a great success! The positive experience as well as the connections and collaborations that followed have me looking forward to organising more conferences in the future.


What are you looking forward to the most on your trip back to the Centre?

I am looking forward to returning to LCDS’ vibrant intellectual community. I am excited to attend talks and seminars, to exchange ideas with colleagues, to continue ongoing collaborations, and to forge new connections.