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Dean's Column: Triton Monthly April 2014

The Jacobs School Electrical Engineers behind the Social-Media Headlines

Did you know that electrical engineers from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering are involved in this research described in the headlines below?

"Emotions Vented Online are Contagious, Study Finds" (Wall Street Journal); "Foul Weather Begets Foul Moods Online" (NPR); and "Study: Social Networks Like Facebook Can Spread Moods" (BBC).

The work is a collaboration between Jacobs School electrical engineers, professor James Fowler and his research team in Political Science and the School of Medicine at UC San Diego; and colleagues at Facebook and Yale University.

The first author on the study, published in PLOS ONE, that triggered the headlines is Lorenzo Coviello. He is an electrical engineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and a member of professor Massimo Franceschetti's research group here in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Ph.D. student Lorenzo Coviello (left) and professor Massimo Franceschetti (right) are from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Coviello did a lot of the heavy lifting that went into developing the "secret sauce" for this project – an instrumental variables regression model that enabled the researchers to uncover causation, rather than correlation, in a giant Facebook dataset made up of one billion Facebook status updates from 100 million users. The big picture of the research is summarized nicely in the original UC San Diego press release.

I'm especially pleased to highlight this work to each of you – alumni and friends of the Jacobs School – because the project highlights several aspects of the Jacobs School that I think are particularly important.

First, this is a deeply interdisciplinary research project. Researchers from significant strength areas of UC San Diego came together to tackle a challenge that no one group could have taken on alone.

Second, this work involved collaboration with an industry partner: Facebook, which also happens to be a member of our Corporate Affiliates Program, here at the Jacobs School.

Third, this research is a good example of what Jacobs School engineers do so well: advance new disciplines. In this case, the emerging field is "Network Science".

I encourage you to learn more about our electrical engineers who worked on this project by reading the story that is linked here.

My Best Regards,

Albert P. Pisano
Dean, Jacobs School of Engineering