PhD Students

Current Students

Sang Won Han is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Columbia University. His research interests include social networks, economic sociology, organization theory, quantitative methods, and computational social sciences. He received his B.A. in Sociology and B.S. in Statistics from Korea University in Seoul, South Korea.

Joan H. Robinson is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University (2010 cohort). Her advisor is David Stark, but she also works closely with Alondra Nelson. Her primary interests include interactions of law, STS, and gender. Joan is currently working on several projects related to home diagnostic devices, which lie at a variety of contentious intersections, such as science and law, medical information and personal privacy, and bodies and technology. Their histories and uses reveal aspects of the development of technology in relation to regulatory systems, as well as individual users and their relationships to their own identities, their families, the medical system, and the technology itself. Before coming to Columbia, Joan was a practicing attorney for five years, and she’s thankful that this Department’s generous faculty has eased her transition into a « practicing sociologist. »

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Sarah Sachs is currently doing research on the relationship between structural position and patterns of participation in Brooklyn-based food cooperatives. She is particularly interested in utilizing network analysis to understand the structure of member labor over time and then bringing in ethnographic analysis to understand how structural change relates to the experience of member participation. Sarah holds a BA from the University of California, Davis and an MIA from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Prior to entering the PhD program, Sarah enjoyed a career in the dot-com industry and spent the past four years at Google, as a product specialist for a web-based enterprise platform.

Elizabeth Watkins is a PhD Student in the Communications program at Columbia University. She holds a BA from the University of California-Irvine and a Master of Science from MIT, and spent two years as a case writer at Harvard Business School. As an organizational ethnographer drawing from science and technology studies as well as human-computer interaction, she uses qualitative methods to study how workers interact with tools of cybersecurity, privacy, and encryption. Her current research focuses on the management of information security in the gig economy. Venues where she’s presented her work include CHI (forthcoming 2018), CSCW (forthcoming 2018), ICA (forthcoming 2018), 4S, the ISA World Congress of Sociology (forthcoming 2018), USENIX Enigma, USENIX, FOCI, and IEEE CTS. Her case studies on digital advertising and the sharing economy have been taught at HBS, the Yale School of Management, and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Recent Students

Ana Andjelic works as a Digital Strategist for Droga5 in NYC. In the past, she worked at across NYC digital marketing industry, at digital shops like HUGE, Inc., Razorfish, The Barbarian Group, and AKQA. Ana often writes about digital marketing for Ad Age, and shares her thoughts on her blog, I [love] marketing. She was also one of the authors of « Strategic Management in the Media Industry, » published by Edgar Elgar. Most recently, Ana presented at the Hyperisland Masterclass, CATFOA Speaker Series, and Miami Ad School. She was also one of the judges deciding on the new standers for the mobile and display advertising formats for Interactive Advertising Bureau. Ana holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from New School University, where she wrote a dissertation on digital branding. 


Philipp Brandt is an assistant professor of sociology at Sciences Po, a researcher at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations (CSO), and an external fellow at the Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung (MZES). He studies work in emergent and otherwise non-standard settings, such as the early formation of data scientists, street-level bureaucrats in the U.S. manufacturing economy, early modern preachers, immigrant employees in German firms, and New York City taxi drivers. His methodological work integrates ideas from qualitative research, for example, reflexivity and abduction, into quantitative analyses as part of a framework some have started calling « computational ethnography. » This research has appeared in the Socio-Economic Review, Sociological Science, die Zeitschrift für Soziologie, and Poetics, among others. He is working on a book manuscript titled Data Discipline: How Hackers Took on Science.

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Victor P. Corona is a sociologist and postdoctoral fellow at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University. His current research examines how pop culture personas connect to publics in unprecedented ways and thereby provide a locus for the production of consumers’ fragile and fluid identities. Victor received his Ph.D. in sociology at Columbia, a certificate in organizational performance management at Georgetown, and a B.A. in sociology at Yale. Prior to joining NYU, he was a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Columbia, where he taught courses on organizations, culture, and social media.

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Lucas Graves is an Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on new organizations and practices in the emerging news ecosystem, and more broadly on the challenges which digital, networked communications pose to established media and political institutions. He is currently at work on a book about the fact-checking movement in American journalism.

WISC Journalism

John Kelly is the founder and lead scientist of Morningside Analytics. His research blends Social Network Analysis, content analysis, and statistics to solve the problem of making complex online networks visible and understandable. John has a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and has studied communications at Stanford and at Oxford’s Internet Institute. He is an Affiliate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.


Elena Krumova is postdoctoral fellow at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University and a Visiting Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy at Central European University. She is an organizational sociology scholar interested in the organizational and managerial practices of public policymaking. Her research explored the work of public facilitators and network managers who are trying to introduce deliberative models of regional and urban planning in Eastern Europe. Previously, she has taught at New York University and Columbia University.

Byungkyu (BK) Lee is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. He received his PhD from the Department of Sociology at Columbia University with the Robert Merton Award for Best Dissertation. He has been using causal inference, network analysis, and machine learning methods to study social divisions, political polarization, and social determinants of health.

Li-Wen Lin’s advisor is Josh Whitford, but she also works closely with David Stark. She is interested in comparative institutions of corporate governance. Her current research is to analyze the structure and management of large Chinese enterprises through the lens of organizational and individual networks. Her PhD dissertation constructs executive career pathways and networks to evaluate the corporate governance reforms of Chinese enterprises.   

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Kinga Makovi is an Assistant Professor at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is a co-PI of the Center for Interacting Urban Networks at NYUAD, CITIES. Prior to joining NYUAD, she earned a PhD in Sociology from Columbia University and a MS in Mathematical Economics from Corvinus University of Budapest.

Makovi’s research addresses questions at the intersection of network science, the social determinants of health and environmental behavior, using computational and experimental methods. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and has appeared in Sociological Science, Scientific Reports and PLoS ONE.

Steven Mandis is a Ph.D. student and an honorary Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University. He is focused on economic sociology, organizational innovation and entrepreneurship. He is interested in the competitive, environmental, individual, organizational and regulatory elements that lead to a organization’s success and failure. In addition, he is an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University Business School. He received an A.B. with Honors from The University of Chicago and a M.A. from Columbia University.

Aharon Cohen Mohliver’s advisor was Bruce Kogut but he worked closely with David Stark on his dissertation research. Aharon’s dissertation focused on processes that make illegitimate, and often illegal practices legitimized in financial markets. His dissertation titled “Legitimized Unethicallity: the divergence of Norms and Laws in Financial Markets” is comprised of three chapters. The first examines how in Israel, and economy that is characterized by high concentration of ownership, mutual funds often invest to the detriment of their clients in highly priced IPOs if those are affiliated with their business group. This effect is not only confined to investments made within a group, the chapter shows strong evidence of reciprocity among business groups, creating systematic over-pricing of IPOs that are generated from business groups and a systematic misallocation of resources from independent IPOs to ones affiliated with a business group. His second and third dissertation chapters examine a different dataset of unethical practices and looks at the diffusion and adoption of stock option backdating among executives in the United States. These chapters show that the diffusion of backdating depends heavily on the physical and temporal distance of focal organizations from their infected peers. The papers demonstrate the concept of private legitimacy, wherein powerful legitimizing actors such as external auditors spread backdating among their clients for a decade while keeping it hidden from outsiders. Aharon is now an Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School and advises the Israeli Securities Authority and various other committees.

Olivia Nicol is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy. She will join the SUTD faculty (MIT-Singapore) as assistant professor in sociology in September 2016. Her work focuses on attribution of responsibility for the recent financial crisis in the United States (2007 – 2010). She is not interested in knowing who was responsible, but how responsibility for the crisis was constructed. She analyzes the production of – and response to – a discourse of accusation for the crisis. She examines media excerpts drawn from three main newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today), Congressional Hearings transcripts, and interviews conducted in three Wall Street banks. Overall, her work participates in the renewed interest in issues of morality in economic and organizational sociology.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen is Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and Assistant Professor of Communications at Roskilde University in Denmark. His work is focused on political campaigns, the role of digital technologies in politics and news media, and changes in the international media business. The underlying common theme is an interest in the ways in which ordinary people are enabled to play an active role in democratic politics–as activists, as media users, and as more or less informed citizens. His most recent book is Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns (Princeton, 2012). He has also edited, with David Levy, The Changing Business of Journalism and its Implications for Democracy (Oxford, 2010) and published in journals including New Media and Society, Journalism, and Journal of Information Technology and Politics.

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Pilar Opazo is a Post-Doctoral Research Scholar at the Columbia Business School. She received her Ph.D in Sociology from Columbia and a B.A from the Catholic University of Chile. Her research interests include organizational theory, innovation studies, science and technology studies, network analysis and qualitative methods. She is currently working on a book titled « Appetite for Innovation » that uses ethnographic methods to examine how innovation is mobilized, its limits and necessity (forthcoming in Columbia University Press). She looks at the case of “elBulli,” the avant-garde restaurant directed by Chef Ferran Adria that has revolutionized the field of haute cuisine. Pilar’s doctoral research was supported by a Fulbright scholarship and by a grant from Telefonica R&D, Spain’s major telecommunications company. Pilar’s published works include two co-authored books, Communications of Organizations (2007) and Negotiation (2006). Also, two peer-reviewed articles in Sociological Theory, titled « Order at the Edge of Chaos » and International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, titled ‘Discourse as a Driver of Innovation: the case of elBulli restaurant’ (2013).

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As a sociologist of culture and organizations, I, Iva Petkcva, study how established and new organizations in creative industries — fashion industry in particular — shift their legitimacy and practice to the emerging digital field of fashion. In my work I investigate the existence of collective organizational rituals preventing fashion companies from adopting new digital practices. At the same time, I analyze how new E-Commerce fashion companies have legitimized their sphere of creative expertise and influenced the transfer of new practice to fashion brands. I have published in Poetics, and my forthcoming book ‘Manufacturing Legitimacy: How institutional entrepreneurs in E-Commerce bring fashion companies to the Digital Age’ is under contract with Palgrave Macmillan. I am a Faculty Member at Ringling College of Art + Design, where I also serve as a Curriculum Advisor for Social and Behavioral Sciences. Previously, I was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at Davidson College, where I was teaching and contributing as a Member to the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (CIS); Digital Studies (DS) minor, the Center for Entrepreneurship; and the Chidsey Center for Leadership Development. I received my PhD in Sociology from Columbia University in May 2014. My other degrees include a Masters in International Business with the School of Business, Economics, and Law at Gothenburg University in Sweden, and a Masters in International Relations with the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Sandra Portocarrero is an organizational ethnographer and qualitative field researcher who studies the dynamics of diversity, equity, and inclusion in relation to the maintenance of exclusion and inequality. Sandra examines the organizational lives of workers and how organizations continue to exclude people from minoritized racial groups and disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds despite their intentions to build an inclusive climate. She is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Management Division at Columbia Business School. You can learn more about her work here.

Daniel Sands is currently an Assistant Professor at University College London. His research focuses on how factors outside the boundaries of the firm can affect the production and distribution of value in markets. This line of inquiry seeks to disentangle ways in which external factors and social forces permeate market activities and affect strategic outcomes across value chains. He completed his PhD at New York University, MA at Columbia University, and undergraduate degrees at the University of Arizona. 

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Matthias Thiemann is an assistant professor for the sociology of money, banking and finance at Goethe University. In his research, he focuses on the one hand on how the embeddedness of regulators in financial markets shapes their evolution, in particular with respect to the shadow banking sector (Thiemann and Lepoutre, forthcoming. American Journal of Sociology). On the other hand, he inquires into the evolution of the regulation of systemic risk post-crisis from a sociology of knowledge perspective, asking if and in how far academic economists inform the regulation of this phenomenon after the crisis. He has received grants from the Volkswagen Foundation, the Institute for New Economic Thinking as well as the Center for Sustainable Architecture of Finance in Europe for his work.

SciencesPo Profile

Mathijs de Vaan received his PhD from the Department of Sociology at Columbia University after defending his dissertation in June 2015. He will move to Berkeley where he recently accepted an offer to join the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Mathijs is currently working on several projects each of which uses network analytic techniques to answer questions about how relational structures guide the behavior of social actors. The substantive contexts of this research includes referral networks in healthcare, peer networks in CEO compensation, and collaboration networks in cancer research.

Berkeley Research profile

Zsuzsanna Vargha’s advisor was Gil Eyal but she also worked closely with David Stark. Zsuzsanna’s doctoral research focused on the interactional basis of markets, looking at technologies banks used to design personalized mass banking in pre-crisis Hungary: Customer Relationship Management software and hand-drawn demonstrations of financial products. Previously Zsuzsanna studied creative intermediaries: post-socialist ad professionals’ debates on what constitutes good advertising. After her PhD Zsuzsanna was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies. Zsuzsanna’s current research interests are the financial advising relationship, the emergence of consumer « risk preference », and the feedback loops between accounting information systems and high-level financial regulation.


Past Students

Daniel Beunza

Assistant Professor of Management, London School of Economics

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Pablo Boczkowski

Professor & Director of the Master of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises, Northwestern University


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Andrew Buck

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Southern Indiana

USI Sociology

Amanda Damarin

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Georgia Perimeter College

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Laura Forlano

Assistant Professor of Design, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology


Personal Site

Gregory Jackson

Professor, Freie Universität Berlin

Universität Berlin

Victoria Johnson

Associate Professor of Urban Policy and Planning, Hunter College

Hunter Urban faculty bio

Szabolcs Kemeny

Senior Manager, McKinsey Panorama – Global Banking Pools


Paul-Brian McInerney

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois Chicago

UIC Sociology

Sophie Mützel

Associate Professor, Universität Luzern

Universität Luzern

Personal Website

Tsutomu (Tom) Nakano

Professor of Corporate Strategy, International Management and Organizations, Graduate School of International Management, Aoyama Gakuin University


Gina Neff

Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute and Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford


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Balazs Vedres

Director, Center for Network Science and Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Central European University.

CEU Budapest

Fernanda Wanderley

PhD Program Director, Swiss Network for International Studies

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