On the Tuesday morning of November 28, 2023, Julie Jiang woke up to the pleasant surprise of buzzing notifications from friends and family, all congratulating her for her recognition as a 2024 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science. In both joy and disbelief, the LA-based computer social scientist repeatedly refreshed the awardee page, yet her name remained listed. She is both greatly honored and eager to accomplish more. “This is not an endpoint in my career but a starting point,” Julie said.
Julie will graduate with a computer science Ph.D. in early 2024, after studying human social behavior on digital platforms at the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI). She grew up in both China and Canada, embracing a mixed cultural identity, and moved to the U.S. in pursuit of higher education. She is not the only one in her family to complete a graduate education but is the first to receive a Ph.D. and study STEM. Math has always been Julie’s strongest subject because of its logical reasoning, but she is also fascinated with the incalculable nature of human psychology.
“There is a paradox in human behavior: we’re simultaneously pretty predictable but also very irrational beings,” she said. “So it’s really interesting for me to try to encapsulate and understand that phenomenon: why do we do things both predictably and irrationally?”
With her dual interests, Julie uses big data and machine learning to glean insights into how online platforms and their users can promote positive social behaviors and mitigate harmful ones. In her most fulfilling work, she found that sharing one’s preferred pronouns fosters gender inclusivity online on Twitter: when more users state their gender pronouns, more non-binary users feel comfortable coming out with their gender identity.
“This simple act of sharing pronouns that some people don’t think matters…it matters a lot for promoting inclusivity and initiating a DEI front,” Julie said. “I’m really proud of this research, and I hope that I can do something related to this area again in the future.”
Alongside amplifying social good on online platforms, Julie chases self-improvement. With bookmarks saved on admirable scientists in the same space, including her ISI advisor Emilio Ferrara, she acknowledges that a great researcher views others not as competition but as models for growth. “I want to always feel inspired by people around me,” she added. Her colleagues, friends and family are her greatest motivations.
“I don’t think any of what I do is just my work. It’s a combined effort of people giving me mental support, love and technical guidance,” she said.
Ferrara speaks highly of her: “I’m genuinely running out of adjectives to describe the incredible accomplishments that Julie has attained during her Ph.D. journey. Her achievements, including making Forbes 30 under 30, truly speak volumes about her dedication and accomplishments during her doctorate and beyond. I can’t wait to see what an amazing career she’ll start once she graduates.”
Julie hopes to continue traveling the world but also stay close to loved ones to share her latest cuisine creations, especially her popular short ribs. She is currently looking for industry opportunities: whether it is social media, video games or online messaging apps, she plans to transform digital platforms into healthy, diverse and inclusive spaces for all users.
“I hope to convert some of my research findings into actionable steps,” Julie said. “I care about making an impact.”
Published on January 16th, 2024
Last updated on January 16th, 2024