Biography and Research Interests


I was born and grew up in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. I did my undergraduate work in Beijing University and received the B.A. in Chinese Language and Literature in 1998. A change of scholarly interest from humanities to quantitative social sciences led me to graduate studies at the Ohio State University, where I received the M.A. in Sociology in 2000. I continued my graduate education at Duke University and received the M.S. in Statistics in 2004 and Ph.D. in Sociology in 2005. Before coming to UNC-CH, I was Assistant Professor at the Sociology Department and Research Associate at the Population Research Center and Center on Aging at NORC at the University of Chicago. I have joined the Sociology Department and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center as Associate Professor and the Carolina Population Center as Faculty Fellow since July 2010. I have many other interests such as swimming, hiking, power yoga, music, and reading (especially when raining).

Research Interests and Goals

My research crosscuts a range of areas in demography, medical sociology, cancer epidemiology, and quantitative methodology. My overarching goals are to understand social and biological mechanisms producing life course variations, temporal dynamics, and population heterogeneity in aging related diseases and mortality. My approaches are:1) to bring this integrative biosocial perspective to bear on the analyses of data from population based studies of biomarkers; 2) to develop new statistical models and methods for delineating life course and time related changes; and 3) to construct a multisystem explanatory framework across levels of organization (molecular, cellular, organ, organism, developmental, and behavioral) for understanding mechanisms at the most precise level of pathogenesis that are jointly affected by social and biological processes.

My past research includes: demographic trends of health and mortality; social disparities in health and co-morbidity over the life course; sociodemographic differentials in subjective quality of life and longevity; and new statistical models and methods for cohort analysis. My current research focuses on integrative social and biodemographic approaches to understanding important questions on aging and survival. These include sex differences in health and longevity, trends and social differentials in cancer mortality, physiological and genetic pathways linking social relationships and diseases of aging (see, e.g., a study of why social isolation kills featured in Endeavors: Dec 19, 2012), and the impact of the obesity epidemic on future mortality decline (see, e.g., NBC News Report Heavy Burden: Obesity May Be Even Deadlier Than Thought on a recent study with surprising findings).