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Bruce Desmarais
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Bruce's Lab

My lab's research is focused on understanding policymaking and policy-related digital communication through the advancement of the social data science toolkit. Approximately half of the Lab's work involves the development of computational and statistical methods in the domains of machine learning, network analysis, natural language processing, and causal inference. The other half involves applications in the study of policymaking and digital comunnication systems, specifically on policy diffusion and cross-platform digital communication with subnational officials. The Lab's funding has been provided by the National Science Foundation, the Russel Sage Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.

Graduate Students

Lingyu (Jack) Fuca

Jack is a Ph.D. student in political science. His research agenda focuses on estimating causal effects in complex social networks. Methodologically, he studies causal inference (Pearl's approach), social network analysis (under complex systems), machine learning, and formal theory. Specifically, he looks into (1) how the features of a specific social network can help predict nodes' behaviors, (2) how power, information, resources, and conflicts are spread and distributed via social ties that are of different features and properties, (3) how complex social networks can reveal heterogenous mechanisms based on the separation of social influence from homophilous effects, and (4) how to update measurement strategies for classic social science concepts with computational social science methods.

lingyu.fu [at] psu [dot] edu

Rebekah Fyfe

Rebekah Fyfe is a graduate student in political science. She studies international relations, with a focus on international political economy and supply chain networks. She is particularly interested in understanding what drives firm-level political behavior. Methodologically, she uses network analysis and causal inference in her research.

Nitheesha Nakka

Nitheesha Nakka is a Ph.D. student in Political Science. Her research investigates political framing via different social media platforms including Twitter, YouTube and TikTok. She is more generally interested in applying computational methods (such as text analysis and machine learning) to understand online political communication and the impacts of these communications on offline political participation.

nvn5240 [at] psu [dot] edu

Postdoctoral Researchers

Isaac Pollert

Isaac Pollert is a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Social Data Analytics. He received his Ph.D. in American Politics from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2022. His specific interests are in state policy and policy diffusion, with a particular focus on health and election policy. His recent work has focused on state legislative behavior and the effects of state policy on the health of infants and young mothers.


Cassandra Tai

Cassandra Tai is a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Social Data Analytics. She received her Ph.D. in comparative politics from the University of Iowa in 2022. Her research examines public opinion and elite behavior in comparative contexts and within the United States, using thousands of national survey datasets, millions of social media posts, Bayesian and text analysis, and machine learning methods.


Former Graduate Students

  • Ted Hsuan Yun Chen, Assistant professor at George Mason University
  • Matt Denny, Staff Research Scientist at Meta, and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University
  • Ishita Gopal, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Transdisciplinary Institute in Applied Data Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Zachary Jones, Senior Data Scientist, Amazon
  • Sangyeon Kim, Postdoctoral scholar at the Observatory on Social Media (OSoMe) at Indiana University
  • Taegyoon Kim, Assistant professor in the School of Digital Humanities and Computational Social Sciences and a joint professor in the Graduate School of Data Science, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
  • Fridolin Linder, Research Scientist and Software Engineer at Meta
  • Omer Yalcin, Faculty Fellow at the Data Analytics and Computational Social Science (DACSS) program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Former Postdocs

  • Howard Liu, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of South Carolina
  • Medha Uppala, Senior Statistician, Westat

Current Co-investigators

  • Frederick Boehmke, Professor and Marvin and Rose Lee Pomerantz Chair — Department of Political Science, University of Iowa
  • Jeffrey Harden, Andrew J. McKenna Family Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame
  • Yu-Ru Lin, Associate Professor at School of Computing and Information, University of Pittsburgh
  • Kevin Munger, Jeffrey L. Hyde and Sharon D. Hyde and Political Science Board of Visitors Early Career Professor of Political Science and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Social Data Analytics at Penn State University
  • Johabed G. Olvera, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Pennsylvania State University
  • Sarah Rajtmajer, assistant professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University


230 Pond Lab, (814) 863-1595, bdesmarais'at'

Deptartment of Political Science | Institute for Computational and Data Sciences | Penn State