Meng Le Zhang: Research Associate

  • What did you do before coming to the SMI?

I was working part time as a researcher at Cardiff University whilst trying to write up my PhD.

  • What attracted you to the SMI? What's different about the SMI?

Methods. Unlike in the other sciences, we cannot rely on things like experiments to answer our research questions. Often there is some kind of ingenuity involved in our research designs where we make use of natural experiment or bizarre quirks in the data. I find that stuff all fascinating. I also really enjoy statistics and learning the mathematical proofs that underlie all the analyses that we use in social science. That’s also why I enjoy working at the SMI—you get time to develop methods AND a chance to apply any new ideas to social science topics.

  • Could you describe your job in one sentence?

I get to learn new things and apply them to research—it’s a good deal.

  • What are your research interests? (academic staff)

Methods-wise I am interested in ways to account for sample selection and missing data. In addition, I’m also trying develop a better understanding of Bayesian approaches to data analysis.
With regards to topics in social science, I am interested in the effects of education on people’s later life outcomes—particularly on class and wealth. I like looking at causal effects in general: the effects of coming into contact with social workers for vulnerable children; the effects of different training courses on educational outcomes etc.

  •  What are your future plans/ambitions?

I would like to develop my own understand of spatial statistics. It’s sort of like some of the analyses that I’ve used before involving time series and random effects. Honestly it sounds dry but I really enjoy learning these thing—I can make all these topics sound much more exciting in person.

  • Tell me an interesting fact about yourself?

I really enjoy cooking—I would be totally up for any SMI events that involve bringing in food.