Director, Social Media Analytics (SOMA) Lab
Jon-Patrick Allem is an Assistant Professor of Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Dr. Allem's research harnesses digital data sources and cutting-edge methodologies to improve population health surveillance and policy. His multidisciplinary expertise in behavioral science, preventive medicine, and data science has led to data-driven public health insights featured in prominent media and scholarly outlets such as Nature, Scientific American, CNN, and the American Journal of Public Health. With the use of data from online platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Google Web Search, Dr. Allem's research has included studies on the effectiveness of mass media campaigns, use and appeal of tobacco products, HIV education, the marketing practices of micromobility companies, and the sources and content of online misinformation. He has successfully competed for close to 4 million dollars in government contracts and grants, with current projects focused on identifying sources of exposure to tobacco marketing among adolescents and young adults. He recently became the principal investigator for the California Tobacco Control Program's Tobacco Industry Monitoring Evaluation. The main goal of the project is to inform comprehensive tobacco control policy efforts by monitoring core tobacco industry practices related to electronic cigarettes and other new and emerging non-combustible nicotine products, and little cigars and cigarillos in three core tobacco industry practices: advertising and marketing on social media platforms, direct marketing, and underage online sales.
Maina Atluri is an undergraduate student in Global Health Sciences at USC. Maina is on the pre-medical track and will pursue an MD degree after completing her bachelors. In her free time, she likes to read, swim, run, play the violin, and dance. Currently, she is a research assistant at SOMA Lab working on content-analysis of tobacco-related content on Instagram.
Manan Biyani is a graduate student studying computer science with a specialization in data science at USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He earned his B.Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering from SRM Institute of Science and Technology. He has experience in the domains of natural language processing and marketing analytics. Currently, he is a Research Assistant at SOMA Lab, assisting on projects using data from social media platforms like Twitter to understand the perceptions and opinions about modern oral nicotine products.
Maya Chu is an undergraduate student in Health and Human Sciences at USC Dornsife School of Arts and Sciences, minoring in Spanish and East Asian Area Studies. Her future goals include attending medical school to become a physician. Currently, she is striving to make an impact within the Los Angeles community by working towards better understanding an individual`s health from a sociocultural perspective and applying this knowledge in various volunteering activities.
Senior Research Associate
Scott Donaldson is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He completed his Postdoctoral Scholarship with the Center for Research and Intervention in Tobacco Control (CRITC) at the University of California, San Diego and received his Ph.D. in psychology with a concentration in evaluation, applied research methods, and positive organizational psychology from Claremont Graduate University. Prior to his doctoral training, Scott received a master`s degree in organizational psychology from the University of Southern California, and his bachelor`s degree in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on the design, measurement, and evaluation of health and well-being interventions. He currently works with the SOMA Lab director to help reach the aims of the Tobacco Industry Monitoring Evaluation (TIME).
Allison Dormanesh is a project specialist in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She earned her B.A. in Ethnic Studies from Cal Poly SLO, with a focus on medical sciences, and an M.S. in Health and the Public Interest from Georgetown University. Her research has focused on the intersection of race and medicine, as well as health disparities affecting predominately low-income and underrepresented communities. She is currently assisting on projects that use data from social media (Instagram/Twitter) to understand 1) the marketing and promotional activities of companies and services that may influence health behaviors, 2) user perceptions of vaping products.
Patricia Escobedo is a doctoral student in the Health Behavior Research Program in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at USC. As a Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) Predoctoral Fellowship Award recipient, she examines the impact of geographic location of stores that sell tobacco, vaping and marijuana-related products on health-related behaviors. Her research utilizes digital maps and spatial analyses to identify patterns and make comparisons across geographic communities. She has also examined the content of tobacco brand websites, and the occurrence of vape pen product placement in music videos.
Yannie Hoang is an undergraduate student in Journalism at USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, minoring in Health Care Studies at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Her academic passions lie at the intersection of health, advocacy, and multimedia storytelling. After graduation, she hopes to serve her community in the field of medicine and healthcare policy. Previously, Yannie assisted Dr. Sita Reddy`s research on myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), as well as worked on Dr. Mai Khanh Tran`s campaign for Congress. Currently, she contributes to Annenberg Media`s new Health and Wellness Desk and works on projects addressing student mental health needs on campus as Vice President of Internal Relations at Inter-Health Council.
Ryan Lee is a Project Assistant in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He graduated from Occidental College in 2019 with a B.A. in Biology with an emphasis in Cell and Molecular Biology and minors in Public Health and East Asian Studies. As an undergraduate, he worked on research projects ranging from infectious disease pathology to evaluation of public health regulations in Hong Kong. At the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, Ryan currently oversees data collection efforts for multiple studies in health behavior and substance prevention research. In his free time, Ryan enjoys cooking, cycling, and playing tennis.
SOMA Lab Affiliate
Anuja Majmundar is a Principal Scientist at the American Cancer Society. She earned her doctoral degree in Health Behavior Research from the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She completed her M.B.A. in Communication Management from Symbiosis International University, and a M.A. in Communication from San Diego State University. As a doctoral student, Anuja was awarded USC TCORS'pre-doctoral fellowship (2019-2020) and was also a recipient of USC's Provost Fellowship (2016-2017). During her doctoral training, she worked closely with members of SOMA Lab on projects related to understanding user experiences with tobacco products like KandyPens, as well as on projects that described the promotional practices of companies across various industries, determining how such practices affect offline health-related behaviors. Today, Dr. Majmundar uses data science methods along with social media data to explore research questions that address the e-cigarette epidemic at scale.
Cindy Perez is an undergraduate student at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) studying child development, and currently serving as a research assistant with SOMA Lab. Through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and CSULA, she was awarded a Summer Program for Research Opportunities for Undergraduate Training (SPROUT) fellowship. Cindy decided to complete her 15-week SPROUT fellowship with SOMA Lab because of her interest in the effects of tobacco marketing on children and adolescent tobacco-related behaviors. Previously, Cindy worked as a preschool teacher for a non-profit organization in Los Angeles and after graduation she plans to pursue a graduate degree with an emphasis in child psychology.
Megan Saghian is an undergraduate student in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. After graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in Brain Sciences and a doctoral degree in Physical Therapy. Megan is passionate about early childhood development and would like to apply her studies to physical therapy. She is also the president of both Chabad on campus and Olami JHealth. In her free time, she loves to exercise, go on walks outdoors, try new vegan restaurants, coach youth basketball, tutor and go boutique shopping. Currently, she is a research assistant in SOMA Lab, assisting in a content-analysis of tobacco-related images.
Programmer Analyst II
Mr. Wilkerson is an information technology professional and is responsible for collecting, managing, storing, and processing various forms of social media data. Mr. Wilkerson has experience with SQL databases, and scripting knowledge to create small tools to aid in the research needs of SOMA Lab. He helps facilitate the research efforts performed by all members of the research team, including identifying new packages and algorithms that can analyze million rows of text data.
Muhammad Omer Zaffer received his bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at USC. He is an aspiring pre-medical student who is also the co-director of the Shaukat Initiative, which is a student-led organization at USC that aims to create a space where children of USC staff members and other local high school students can develop their academic interests. Currently, he is an intern at SOMA Lab working on content-analysis of tobacco-related content on YouTube. In his free time, Omer loves to play tennis, cricket, football, and study comparative religion.
Aneesh Aithal was a research assistant in SOMA Lab from 2019 to 2021. After earning a master’s degree in computer science from the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC, he went on to take a position as a Software Engineer at Amazon. Annesh completed his B.Tech degree in Computer Science and Engineering at the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, in India. His research focused on building tools and analyzing social media text and image data related to tobacco products.
Sheila Bonyadlou was an undergraduate student in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at USC. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2019 and helped the research team to identify the concentration of cannabis retailers in Los Angeles with the use of social media data. Sheila is in the process of preparing for graduate school to pursue a degree in Global Medicine, with a long-term goal of becoming a radiologist.
Akshat Choube was a research assistant in SOMA Lab from 2019 to 2021. After earning a master’s degree in computer science from the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC, he went on to take a position as a Software Engineer at Amazon. He received his B.Tech. in computer science and engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Palakkad. His research interests include natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and game theory. He worked with Jon-Patrick Allem to understand the use and appeal of tobacco-related products using data from social media platforms. Akshat plans to pursue a doctoral degree in the future.
Likhit Darmapuri was a research assistant in SOMA Lab from 2017 to 2019. He is currently a Software Engineer at Google, working on infrastructure for safe handling of private and personally identifiable data. He has also worked extensively on search infrastructure, and text classification.
Ashley Hill was an undergraduate student in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at USC. She has worked as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom through the Joint Education Project and is on USC`s Varsity Women`s Lacrosse team. During her time as a research assistant, she worked on qualitative coding and analysis of social media data, specifically on tobacco-related conversations on Twitter. Ashley is currently a graduate student in occupational therapy.
Marlene Huerta was SOMA Lab`s first Postbaccalaureate Fellow. Prior to working with SOMA Lab, Marlene earned a B.S. in Public Health at Cal State LA (CSULA) and worked as a Patient Access Representative in the Department of Family Medicine at the Keck Hospital of USC. During her time at SOMA Lab, she worked on projects examining cannabis and tobacco retailers` promotional practices in lower SES communities. She is currently pursuing an MPH degree with a focus in urban health at CSULA.
Vanessa Rivera was SOMA Lab`s second Postbaccalaureate Fellow. Prior to working with SOMA Lab, Vanessa earned a B.A. in Child Development at California State University Los Angeles (CSULA). During her time at SOMA Lab, she co-authored several publications focusing on public attitudes towards e-cigarette devices, such as Puff Bar, and public responses to policies restricting the availability of flavored e-cigarettes.
ISE – Student Worker
Paras Sharma was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2021. After earning a master`s degree in computer science from the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC, he went on to take a position as a Software Engineer at Amazon. Prior to that he completed his B.Tech. degree in Computer Science and Engineering with honors at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Dhanbad. His research interests fall in the intersection of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). He has great enthusiasm to apply his NLP and HCI knowledge to understand people`s behavior and emotions. His future goals include pursing his Ph.D. and continuing to work in academia and research. Paras worked with Jon-Patrick Allem to build tools to analyze the use and impact of tobacco-related products, using video data from social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube.
Sree Uppu was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2017. She is currently a Software Engineer at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and works on building real time data streaming pipelines to study customer cache profiles and perform anomaly detection on the network data. Prior to that she was a Performance Engineer with the Traffic and Performance Management Team at Verizon Digital Media Services.
Ashkon Vaghei was an undergraduate student in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at USC. He was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2019 and helped with studies on tobacco-related marketing strategies (e.g. cartoons) on Instagram and its impact on youth. Ashkon is currently preparing for dental school.
Nalin Virameteekul is an undergraduate student in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at USC. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2020 working remotely on a project that used Twitter data to examine user experiences with new tobacco products. She continues to pursue her passions for public health, new health technologies, and ways to encourage healthy lifestyles among youth.
Dahee Woo was an undergraduate student in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at USC. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2019 and worked on identifying cartoon logos and tobacco-related marketing strategies on Instagram and its impact on e-cigarette appeal among youth. Dahee Woo is currently a graduate student in occupational therapy.
Jared Yuan was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2021, focusing on identifying and describing tobacco- and marijuana-related Snapchat ads. Previously, Jared was a part of a research team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles that studied traumatic head injuries and bronchiolitis. After completing his Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at USC, Jared plans to pursue medical school.
Youshan Zhang was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2018. From SOMA Lab he went on to earn his Ph.D. in computer science from Lehigh University. Today, he is postdoctoral fellow at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. His research interests lie in computer vision, artificial intelligence, text, image, and shape analysis. Specifically, he is interested in developing computational methodologies for image understanding problems in the fields of medical image analysis (such as using machine learning methods to discover the underlying mechanisms of diseases) and computer vision (such as identifying the position of an object).