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Professor Sinan Aral Granted $475,000 NSF CAREER Award

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Sinan Aral, NYU Stern Assistant Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences, has been recognized by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with its Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER). As part of this award, he will receive $475,000 to support his latest research.

Aral is the third professor in five years from Stern’s information systems group to receive an NSF CAREER award. The award is extremely prestigious and very few are given each year. To have three Stern information systems faculty members recognized for their research in such a short period of time is a truly exceptional accomplishment and speaks to the intellectual energy of the department and the school.

NSF’s CAREER Program supports the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.

Professor Aral’s research will use data on online social networks to assess peer influence in product adoption and demand. His research will determine how best to target peer-to-peer distribution by developing and applying new statistical techniques that detect where there is peer influence versus self-selection; homophily (i.e., the tendency of similar people to know each other and, consequently, to do the same kinds of things); and confounding factors (the tendency of friends to be exposed to the same environmental conditions) in the distribution. The research will also develop network-based models of the diffusion of behavior change in social networks, and validate these models using empirical data on social relationships and health-related behaviors from five massive networked datasets.

“Network science and the availability of new data on population-level human interaction promise to advance our understanding of human behavior on a massive scale,” said Professor Aral. “Revolutions in science have typically been preceded by revolutions in measurement. As the invention of the microscope revolutionized medicine and sub-atomic observation revolutionized physics, the ability to bring these new data and analytics together promises a revolution in our understanding of human social dynamics. Research on how information and behaviors spread through social networks can help us understand the productivity of information workers, peer-to-peer marketing strategies, and the success of health policies such as the containment of disease and smoking cessation.”

Professor Aral will use this research in his NYU Stern classes to highlight the importance of networks and information for business strategy, society and health. Also, he has co-spearheaded the creation of the Workshop on Information in Networks (WIN) to develop the first collaborative research community across academia and industry around topics related to information diffusion in networks.