Jon-Patrick Allem, PhD, MA
Assistant Professor of Research Population and Public Health Sciences
Jon-Patrick Allem is the Director of the Social Media Analytics (SOMA) Lab and 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.
Trista Beard, EdD
Research Program Administrator
Trista Beard serves the SOMA Lab as a research program administrator. Dr. Beard assists with project management of the Tobacco Industry Monitoring Evaluation grant including survey development, study, recruitment, data collection, coding, and analysis. Prior to joining the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Dr. Beard was the Director of the USC Norman Topping Student Aid Fund, where she won national recognition for student support programs and published research on student success initiatives, best practices, and models of belonging in higher education. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester, a master’s from Simmons College in Boston, and a Doctorate of Education from USC. Her research interests focus on social class, social capital exchange, persistence, and the development of social networks.
Manan Biyani, MS
Manan Biyani holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, as well as a Bachelor of Technology degree in Computer Science and Engineering from SRM Institute of Science and Technology. Manan has honed skills in natural language processing and analytics and has gained practical experience in their applications. In his professional and academic experiences, he has worked on aspect-based sentiment analysis, topic modeling, MLOps, marketing analytics, and ETL using Python, SQL, and R. He currently works as a Project Assistant at SOMA Lab, providing support on projects that utilize social media data to better understand attitudes and behaviors relevant to public health.
Scott Donaldson, PhD
Research Associate, Senior
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).
Ryan Lee is a Project Manager 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.
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.
Jacqueline Trinh is an undergraduate student in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She is interested in the field of public health and is eager to utilize social media to understand the public’s perception of tobacco products. She is currently a research assistant at SOMA Lab, working on content-analysis of tobacco-related content on TikTok. Her current hobbies include reading fantasy novels and crochet.
Ali Elmashat is a second-year undergraduate student in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Ali is on the pre-medical track and aspires to attend medical school to become a physician. Outside of class, he enjoys working with the community through the USC Youth Scientist Program where he tutors at local elementary schools. Currently, Ali is a research assistant at SOMA Lab, assisting in content-analysis of tobacco-related videos on TikTok. In his free time, he likes to play soccer, go to the beach, and hang out with friends.
Ephrata Abate received her bachelor`s degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She will complete her master`s degree in Global Medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC in December 2022. As a research assistant at SOMA Lab, she analyzes content from tobacco brand and vendor websites to document their age verification process and marketing strategies. She is interested in closing the gap in health disparities for underrepresented populations, as well as eliminating bias and disparities in relation to race and gender. Her hobbies include creative content creation digitally and experientially, with skills in front and behind the camera as well as insight analysis, content organization, and modeling.
Sarayu Jaladanki is an undergraduate student in Human Biology on a pre-medical track at USC, minoring in Health Care Studies and Applied Analytics. She is involved in Project RISHI, a student run non-profit that comes up with sustainable solutions for the development of rural Indian villages. Also, as a part of Madhatter Knits, a non-profit organization dedicated to supplying knit hats for premature babies, she has helped expand donations to homeless shelters. She also volunteers at the LAC+USC Emergency Department and works under Dr. Allison Luu, researching patient falls and injuries in hospitals.
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.
Liam Obaid is a senior at USC majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Studies and minoring in Natural Sciences. He is on the Pre-Medical track and hopes to obtain a Master of Public Health prior to medical school. At USC, Liam has helped with research related to tobacco use as well as sexual health and cancer. Liam would like to gain work experience in both clinical and public health settings eventually, and is looking forward to analyzing marketing strategies of popular tobacco brands in SOMA Lab. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, spending time with friends, and listening to new music.
Sian Salazar is a sophomore at USC, studying Global Health and Political Science. She is interested in the intersection between public policy and global healthcare systems. She is heavily involved in USC Phi Alpha Delta and also a member of the USC Roosevelt Institute, where she is currently working on a policy proposal for a public health intervention in Los Angeles. Sian is currently a JusticeCorps Fellow and serves as a legal assistant at the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Natasha Koneru is a sophomore who is currently majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Studies at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. Natasha is a pre-medical student who dreams of becoming a physician and an advocate for underserved populations within medicine. Additionally, Natasha volunteers with Trojan Shelter at USC and is a member of the Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program at USC. Natasha currently assists with content analysis of tobacco-related video clips on TikTok. In her spare time, Natasha enjoys running, listening to music, and spending time with her friends and family.
Jane Truong is an undergraduate at Cal State LA in Child Development. Her future goals include attending grad school to advance her education in Child Development. She hopes to follow a career that helps children in a hospital setting to cope with better mental health. Her interest in SOMA lab is identifying different marketing strategies for tobacco brands. She enjoys going to Disneyland and watching Disney movies.
Parker Morrow is a third-year undergraduate majoring in Economics at California State University, San Bernardino. Through Economics at CSUSB, Parker has had the opportunity to study the process of Economic Analysis of Socio-Economic issues, Labor Markets, and Political Economics. Parker hopes to pursue his interest in Public Health and Economics and, through the SOMA lab, gain experience with the strategies of marketing by tobacco companies to adolescents. In his free time, Parker likes to study and listen to music, ride bicycles, rock climb, and spend time with his family.
Huda Alnajjar is an undergraduate majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Studies at the Keck School of Medicine of USC with a minor in Natural Science. Huda is currently a pre-dental student interested in public health outreach and education efforts. At USC, she is an active member of the Delta Delta Sigma honor society and the Human Biology Association. As a research assistant at the SOMA Lab, she aids in analyzing the marketing strategies used by popular tobacco brands. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and crocheting.
Pedram Zamanpour is an undergraduate in the Global Health Program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He is interested in learning about health behaviors and outcomes and exploring interdisciplinary views on various issues. In addition to his classes, Pedram is the host of the “Finding My Way” podcast where he interviews USC students and alumni to help prospective students learn more about the fields they might study at USC.
Mia Chakroun is a senior at USC majoring in Global Health and minoring in Health Communications. She is also pursuing a Master of Public Health degree and is excited to continue her studies in the global health field. She is involved in USC's chapters of UNICEF and Universities Allied for Essential Medicine. Assisting with research in the SOMA Lab is a great way to be involved with the academic community at USC while also tackling important tobacco industry practices. She loves to travel, explore new places, and play soccer in her free time.
Jack Petrucci is a senior majoring in Health Promotions and Disease Prevention Studies at the Keck School of Medicine. He is on a pre-Dental track and will complete a Master of Science in Management prior to Dental School. Jack hopes to use his health and business backgrounds to better understand the industries that propagate the sales of nicotine and tobacco. The research done in SOMA lab will hopefully aid in Jack’s Dental career as he plans to focus on oral pathology, most notably oral cancers, caused by the use of nicotine and tobacco.
Natalie Kim is an undergraduate student on the pre-medical track in Health and Human Sciences with a concentration in Psychology at USC Dornsife. Natalie aspires to become a physician and promote humanistic healthcare practices to aid underserved populations. Natalie is also a part of USC’s Inter-Health Council Club and Dornsife Ambassadors on campus.
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.
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.
Allison Dormanesh, M.S.
Allison Dormanesh was a Project Specialist in SOMA Lab from 2019 to 2022. During this time, she assisted on projects that used data from social media to understand 1) the marketing and promotional activities of companies and services that may influence health behaviors, and 2) user perceptions of e-cigarette products. While at SOMA Lab Allison also spearheaded data collection from high schools in Southern California and published 11 papers as lead author or co-author. Allison 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. She is currently a Survey Coordinator at RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA.
Patricia Escobedo, Ph.D., M.A.
SOMA Lab Affiliate
Patricia Escobedo is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the BUILD PODER program at California State University Northridge. She earned her doctoral degree in the Health Behavior Research from the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at USC. As a doctoral student, Patricia was awarded the USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) Predoctoral Fellowship and a Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) Predoctoral Fellowship Award. As a TRDRP award recipient, she examined the spatial distribution and clustering of vaping and cannabis retailers to understand which communities in Los Angeles are disproportionately impacted by higher retailer density. During her doctoral training she also worked on research projects that examined the content of tobacco brand websites, tobacco and cannabis marketing on social media platforms, the occurrence of vape pen product placement in music videos and how -unprimed recall of e-cigarettes product placement in music videos is associated with e-cigarette use.
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.
Anuja Majmundar, Ph.D.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yannie Hoàng was an undergraduate student in Journalism at USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and minored in Health Care Studies at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab from 2020 to 2021 and helped with research projects focused on analyzing Twitter posts about cannabis use during pregnancy and postpartum. During her time at USC Yannie was an active contributor to Annenberg Media`s new Health and Wellness Desk and worked on projects addressing student mental health needs on campus as Vice President of Internal Relations at Inter-Health Council.
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.
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.
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.
Maina Atluri was an undergraduate student in Global Health Sciences at USC. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab from 2021 to 2022, helping with a content-analysis of tobacco-related posts collected from Instagram. While Maina was at USC, she was on the pre-medical track and is now applying to medical school. In her free time, she likes to read, swim, run, play the violin, and dance.
Muhammad Omer Zaffer
Muhammad Omer Zaffer received his bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at USC. He was an intern at in SOMA Lab from 2021-2022 working on content-analysis of tobacco-related content on YouTube. While at USC he was the co-director of the Shaukat Initiative–a student-led organization that aims to create a space where children of USC staff members and other local high school students can develop their academic interests. In his free time, Omer loves to play tennis, cricket, football, and study comparative religion.
Megan Saghian is an undergraduate student in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in the fall of 2021 and assisted in a content-analysis of tobacco-related images. 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.
Ryan Lui is an undergraduate student in the Health and Human Sciences program at USC. He is on the pre-medical track with aspirations of becoming a physician. He was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in the spring of 2022. During this time, he analyzed content from tobacco brand and vendor websites to document their age verification process and marketing strategies. He enjoys traveling, snowboarding, and watching professional and collegiate sports.
Sarah Donahue is an undergraduate and progressive master’s degree student at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab from 2021 to 2022. Her research interests focus on promoting accurate health information on social media and analyzing marketing strategies of tobacco products. She plans to pursue dental school after graduation and dreams of running her own clinic. She is active in her pre-dental society and provides music lessons and science education to local elementary students. In her free time, she loves to surf, camp, and play the guitar.
Heather Lopez is an undergraduate student in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She is passionate about Latinx health advocacy, addressing gender and minority health disparities, and volunteering in her community. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab from 2021 to 2022. During this time, she analyzed TikTok posts related to Backwoods Cigars. In her free time, Heather enjoys learning new instruments, creating comic books, taking long bike rides, and reading.
Chloe Debow Krawitz
Chloe Debow Krawitz is an undergraduate student in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and is currently on the pre-medical track. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2021. During this time, she analyzed content from tobacco brand and vendor websites to document their age verification process and marketing strategies. Prior to SOMA Lab, Chloe worked as a research assistant on a study investigating the effectiveness of the minimally invasive VATS lobectomy procedure for lung cancer patients. In her free time, Chloe enjoys dancing, cooking, and volunteering.
Oumayma Benyoussef was an undergraduate student in Global Health and Business Administration. She was a research assistant in SOMA Lab in 2022, helping with a content analysis of tobacco-related posts on TikTok. Previously, she interned at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and performed extensive research on business law, business ethics, and strategy. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing tennis, and baking. Oumayma is currently preparing for law 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.
Cindy Pérez was a Project Assistant in SOMA Lab from 2021to 2022, assisting with data collection, content analyses of social media data and literature reviews. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). Through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and CSULA, she was awarded a Summer Program for Research Opportunities for Undergraduate Training (SPROUT) fellowship. Cindy completed 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. Cindy is currently enrolled in graduate school pursuing a degree in Counseling Psychology. Her goal is to provide bilingual mental health services in her community.
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.
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 an assistant professor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at Yeshiva University. Prior to Yeshiva University he was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. His research interests lie in artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, transfer learning, manifold learning, and shape analysis.
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.