Yulin Hswen

Disciplines: AnthropologyEpidemiology
Title and home institution: Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Bakar Computational Health Institute at the University of California San Francisco
Category of Fellowship: Research residency
Chair: Inserm/Iméra Chair
Research program: Interdisciplinary Explorations
Residency length: September – December 2022
Behind the Lyrics (Dr. Yulin Hswen & Malcolm Mitchell)

Research project

Enhancing attention and behavioral-health conversion with digital tools to help reduce harmful environmental exposures

Summary of the research project

Yulin Hswen’s research project at the Institute for Advanced Study of Aix-Marseille University (Iméra) seeks to leverage online big data collected using computational methods from unconventional data sources such as social media and web archives to understand the impact of the structural environment on health inequities. This builds on Hswen’s previous research using online discussions to model environmental patterns and her collaborations with Professor Bruno Ventelou at Aix Marseille School of Economics, where they used Google search queries to predict Hospital Admissions for respiratory disease 2-weeks earlier than hospital admissions. Specifically, she will model environmental patterns and their relationship with health risk while accounting for demographic characteristics that are linked with historic inequities. Furthermore, she also plan to develop novel public health messaging approaches to collecting personal and private digital data for the benefit of prediction and future pandemic preparedness. In collaboration with economists at AMSE, she will work to identify the types of behavioral economic messaging that will elicit greater data donation responses from their personal digital devices that will help better understand and prevent disease outbreaks. For instance, online big data can be used to understand human mobility behaviors; and public health recommendations can be provided to help the public reduce their risk of harmful exposures. Through interactions with economists at AMSE, Yulin Hswen plans to benefit from the ‘results’—or rather “intuitions”, as these domains are very new—of the economics of attention and the economics of nudging, which are very recent domains in economics.

Findings from these projects can be used to understand the structural environment that places humans at risk and can help inform future targeted public health interventions that will reduce avoidable morbidity and mortality. The methods generated from this proposal hold the potential to be applied across different disciplines and sets of structural exposures that public and governmental agencies can use to take action and thwart severe health implications across diverse populations around the world.

Yulin Hswen is keen to interact with researchers from different fields to enhance her research proposal. Through the encounters she will have with different researchers on a daily basis, she will have the opportunity to spend the time to learn about their research in-depth, and gain a greater understanding of new perspectives that can be used to further advance her studies and bring a broader dimension to my research. Bringing together researchers from various subjects and areas, debates on scientific methods, limitations in study design, and arousal of novel theoretical conceptions, will push Hswen’s boundaries and evolve her project to connect across diverse scientific disciplines and audiences. This is especially necessary in the field of public health where scientists across disciplines need to come together to devise better methodologies and applications in a multitude of areas to generate widespread change and improve population health.


Dr. Hswen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Bakar Computational Health Institute at the University of California San Francisco. Dr. Hswen graduated with a Doctoral Degree in social and computational epidemiology at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health where she focused on leveraging online big data to uncover social patterns of disease and to inform the development of interventions to improve the health and well-being of the most marginalized subgroups of the population.

Dr. Hswen is in the pursuit of detecting uncomfortable truths. Dr. Hswen’s current research seeks to identify authentic attitudes, feelings, and beliefs that influence population behavior and health. Through the collection of unconventional and underground online social networks, Dr. Hswen captures unfiltered conversations to further understand the connections between social experiences and health.

Dr. Hswen’s research has been published in The New England Journal of Medicine, The American Journal of Public Health, Preventive Medicine, Nature npj Digital Medicine, Nature Human Behavior and Nature Scientific Data and her work has been featured in CBC News, Bloomberg News, Nature Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal.

Appels à candidature

Les résidences de recherche que propose l’Iméra, Institut d’études avancées (IEA) d’Aix-Marseille Université, s’adressent aux chercheurs confirmés – académiques, scientifiques et/ou artistes. Ces résidences de recherche sont distribuées sur quatre programmes (« Arts & sciences : savoirs indisciplinés », « Explorations interdisciplinaires », « Méditerranée » et « Utopies nécessaires »).