Team Members

Principal Investigator

Claude FischerClaude Fischer

University of California, Berkeley. Fischer arrived at Berkeley in 1972 with degrees from UCLA and Harvard. Most of his early research focused on the social psychology of urban life— how and why rural and urban experiences differ—and on social networks, both  interests coming together in three early books: The Urban Experience (1976, 1984); Networks and Places: Social Relations in the Urban Setting (1977), and To Dwell Among Friends: Personal Networks in Town and City (1982). His most recent book on social networks, just published, is Still Connected: Social Networks in America Since 1970 (2011). He lives in Berkeley with his wife, Ann Swidler, also a Professor of Sociology at U.C. Berkeley. Fischer blogs at Made in America and contributes a bimonthly column to the Boston Review.


Leora LawtonLeora Lawton

Leora Lawton is the Director of UCNets and Executive Director of the Berkeley Population Center.  A social demographer, Lawton earned a BA in economics from UC Berkeley, an MA in demography from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a PhD in sociology from Brown.  Her earlier academic work focused on intergenerational relations as a function of parental divorce.  Later she spent many years in the private sector as a survey research methodologist before returning to academia in 2006.  Current research interests are about pets as filling the role of children in post-demographic transition households, and the effects of divorce on networks of support.


Data Analyst

Gene (Yevgeni) Kazinets

Gene Kazinets is the data analyst, whose responsibilities include ensuring data quality, providing documentation, creating specialized variables and assisting researchers in analysis of the data.


Lisa Berkman is director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Berkman is an internationally-recognized social epidemiologist whose work focuses extensively on social and policy influences on health outcomes. Her research has been oriented towards understanding inequalities in health related to socioeconomic status, different racial and ethnic groups, and social networks, support and isolation. The majority of her work is devoted to identifying the role of social networks and support in predicting declines in physical and cognitive functioning, onset of disease and mortality, especially related to cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease. In addition, she has devoted much of her work to understanding determinants of population health by comparing European countries with the U. S. She is currently a member of the Conseil Scientifique de l’Institut de Recherche en Sante Publique (IReSP) in France and a member of IOM. She has been actively involved since 1994 on the GAZEL study, a cohort of 20,000 French employees of EDF-GDF, the large natural gas-electricity company, and also with a study involving workplace practices and employee and family health.

Dr. Berkman is the author of several books and over 200 publications. She co-edited Social Epidemiology, the first textbook on the topic, plus Neighborhoods and Health (both with Ichiro Kawachi).

Calvin Morrill is Professor of Law and Sociology, and Associate Dean and Chair of the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at the Boalt School of Law. Morrill works at the intersection of law and society, organizational sociology, sociology of youth and culture, and social movements. He primarily uses qualitative fieldwork (ethnography and in-depth interviews) in his empirical research, augmented by surveys, social network analysis, and experimental and story-based methods.  His research addresses questions of social conflict, rights mobilization, and social control in a variety of organizational contexts, including schools, private corporations, and community agencies.  He also studies social movements and institutional change, particularly with respect to the creation of new socio-legal environments and organizational forms. His books include: Youth Conflict: Culture and Control in a Multiethnic High School, co-authored with Michael Musheno (forthcoming); Together Alone: Personal Relationships in Public Places, co-edited with David Snow and Cindy White and The Executive Way: Conflict Management in Corporations.

His scholarship has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Article Award in the section on the Sociology of Law from the American Sociological Association (for “Legal Mobilization in Schools,” co-authored with Lauren Edelman, Karolyn Tyson, and Richard Arum, and appeared in Law & Society Review) and the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the Pacific Sociological Association (for The Executive Way).

Shira Offer is Professor of Sociology at Bar-Ilan University and a Visiting Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 2006 and worked as a Research Analyst at the Alfred P. Sloan Center on Parents, Children, and Work. Her main research interests include personal networks and support, work and family, gender relations, social inequality and poverty. Her research is motivated by the concern of how the current social, cultural, and economic climate affects intergenerational relations and the well-being and functioning of families of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.She has published articles in such journals as the American Sociological Review, Journal of Marriage and Family, Social Forces, Social Science Research, Sociological Quarterly,Community, Work, and Family, Racial and Ethnic Studies, and Gender & Society. For more information and downloads visit

Sandra Smith joined the faculty at Berkeley in the Department of Sociology in 2004. Smith received a B.A. in History-Sociology from Columbia University in 1992 and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1998. Smith’s research interests include urban poverty, joblessness, race and ethnicity, social networks and social capital, trust, and culture and social structure.  In her new book, Lone Pursuit: Distrust and Defensive Individualism among the Black Poor, Smith advances current and enduring debates about black joblessness, highlighting the role of interpersonal distrust dynamics between low-income black jobholders and their jobseeking relations that make cooperation during the process of finding work a problematic affair. In her current project, tentatively titled Why Blacks Help Less, Smith further interrogates the process of finding work by examining racial and ethnic differences in trust dynamics and exploring the social psychological, cultural, and structural factors that generate these differences.

In 2007, Smith was a recipient of the Hellman Family Faculty Fund, which supports the research of promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their fields.  She has also been a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City and a Fellow at Stanford’s Center for the Advanced Study of Behavioral Sciences (CASBS). Smith currently serves on the editorial board of the American Sociological Review and is a member of the ASA Council.

Trond Petersen grew up in Oslo, Norway and finished his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Oslo before coming to U.S. for graduate studies in 1982. He received a PhD in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin (1987). Before coming to Berkeley in 1988 he taught in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University (1985-1988) and has also spent two years teaching in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oslo (1992-93, 1996-97).

Drawing on large-scale quantitative data from the U.S. and Scandinavia, Petersen has studied many facets of occupational mobility, wage inequality, and labor force structure in terms of gender and social class. To do so requires the usage of longitudinal data in order to determine causality, and also the role of social networks in giving one access to occupational paths. He has developed methodological techniques in longitudinal and panel analyses, published extensively on these techniques and others, and also taught event history and longitudinal methodologies.

Thomas Piazza is UCNets’ sampling statistician, who joins us from the Survey Research Center of the University of California, Berkeley, where he has been for almost thirty years. In that capacity he designed numerous samples of all types and authored many technical reports describing those samples. The technical reports can be accessed online at: ‘’. He has also been teaching the survey sampling course in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health since 1995. Piazza now advises various projects on issues of sampling and weighting and serves as a statistical advisor to the SDA development program.

Tara McKay is a Sociologist and Assistant Professor in the Center for Medicine, Health & Society at Vanderbilt University. She began working with the UCNets study during her time at UC Berkeley as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Research Scholar (2013-2015) and is leading an oversample of older LGBT adults for the UCNets study. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2013. Her primary research interests are in LGBT health and policy in the US and Africa.

Stacy Torres is  Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and associate at the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at the University at Albany, State University of New York.. She earned her PhD in sociology from New York University in 2015 and holds a BA in comparative literature from Fordham University and MFA in nonfiction creative writing from Columbia University. Her dissertation, an urban ethnography of older adults living in a gentrified New York City neighborhood, is under contract with the University of California Press. Her research and teaching interests include gender, health, the family, urban communities, aging and the life course, and qualitative research methods.

Postdoctoral Scholars

Stephanie Child is the UCNets Postdoctoral Fellow.  She earned her PhD in the Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior  from University of South Florida in 2016, an MPh from San Diego State University in health promotion, and holds a Bachelor of Science from UC San Diego in psychology. Overall, her research focuses on how the interplay between socioeconomic inequities, social network characteristics, and social environments, including neighborhoods, give rise to health disparities across the life course. Her publications include:

Child, S., Schoffman, DE., Kaczynski, AT., Forthofer, M., Wilcox, S., & Baruth, M. Neighborhood attributes associated with the social environment. American Journal of Health Promotion. In press, 2015.
Child, S., Kaczynski, AT., Sharpe, PA., Wilcox, S., Schoffman, DE., Forthofer, M., & Barr-Anderson, DJ. Demographic differences in perceptions of outdoor recreation areas across a decade. Journal of
Park and Recreation Administration, 33(2), 1-19, 2015.


Eric Giannella received his PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley in 2016. 

Graduate Students

Zawadi Rucks Ahidiana is a 2nd year Sociology graduate student. Her research interests include urban sociology, spatial stratification, and race/ethnicity.

Lindsay Bayham is a 3rd year Sociology graduate student. Her research interests include social networks, culture, and stratification.

Andrei Boutyline is a 5th year Sociology graduate student. His research interests include social networks, social psychology, culture & cognition, quantitative methods, and mathematical sociology,

Tuba Demir Dagdas is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology, University of Alabama-Birmingham, USA, working on medical sociology.  Her interests lie in families, gender, social relationships, and cultural diversity and how they affect mental health.

Casey Homan is a 3rd year Sociology graduate student. His research interests include religion, organizations, health, and immigration.

Keun Bok Lee is a 4th year Sociology graduate student. His research interests include social networks and health, social stratification and class, and culture.

Liana Prescott is a 4th year Sociology graduate student. Her research interests include morality, social psychology, and sociology of culture.

Matt Stimpson is a 3rd year Sociology graduate student. His research interests include sociology of culture and stratification.

Mia (Ruijie) Zhong is a 3rd-year graduate student in Sociology and Demography. Her research interests include the family, fertility and kinship networks.