About


I’m an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) at the University of Pittsburgh with a secondary appointment at the Department of Economics. I received my PhD in Social Science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 2010. Before Caltech I was a computer scientist at Adobe Systems, working on the PDF technology. Here’s a link to my CV.

My training comes from mathematical social science (experiments, theoretical models), however, the research I do is motivated by practical problems faced by organizations delivering human /social services. My published and ongoing work can be divided into three areas: altruism, information aggregation, and policy experiments in the social services sector.

The first area, altruism, asks: ‘Why do humans sacrifice their own self-interest for others?’ and ‘How should we build organizations and design policies to support altruistic acts?’ My work in this area explores reputation concerns, beliefs, and more recently, religious motivations. The questions are applied to areas as diverse as public and private acts of charity, the impact of macroeconomic shocks on giving to the poor, and willingness to forgo interest in Islamic banking. The second area, information aggregation, ask if those in charge of making decisions in organizations can benefit from harnessing information dispersed among the masses (wisdom of the crowds). My latest research in this area investigates the potential of using anomalous cell phone patterns to predict violence. The third area collects various field research driven by collaborations with non-profit organizations that serve distressed populations (e.g. the homeless).

It will probably take me a while to bring all three areas together, but that’s where I aim to be in the long term.