About Me

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Industrial and System Engineering, Virginia Tech

Email: ranxu@vt.edu

Research Interest: Quantitative methods, Computational social science, Social networks, Group behavior, Education, Science and Health policy.

My research focuses on quantitative methods and system science, with applications in substantive areas such as group behavior and public policy. Specifically, my research has two streams:

The first stream of my research is focused on social network analysis. “You are who your friends are”. Social networks, as a meso-level phenomenon (which connect society at the macro level and individual at the micro level), have a fundamental impact on who we are, how we behave, and why we are different from each other. With the recent explosion of the availability of social network data, we are embracing great opportunities to further our understanding of how social networks shape human behavior. My research in this area focuses on (1) developing new methodology for social network analysis, and (2) applying statistical analysis and simulation to study how social networks shape people’s behavior and how social networks are formed.    

The second stream of my research is focused on system thinking. “Everything is endogenous.” This means all factors in a system are inter-related, and they are all causes as well as consequences of some other factors. Thus a simple change in one factor can often result in non-linear and dramatic changes of the whole system. Examining a system of inter-related factors with feedback loops challenges the traditional practice of only focusing on one or few factors when making policy decisions, and explains why well-intended policies often generate unintended consequences.  My research in this area focuses on employing computational (e.g. agent-based modeling and system dynamics modeling) and empirical (statistical analysis) approaches to study the complex relations between factors at play in a decision system, and identify the strategies or policy levers that can best change the system.

I received my PhD in measurement and quantitative methods from Michigan State University in 2016.