David Schaefer, sociology associate professor, studies social networks – and he’s quick to point out that they existed long before the rise of social media. He’s interested in how the people around us – friends, family, neighbors and peers – shape who we are, how we think about the world and our identity in it. His current work is focused on how people are connected with each other – including adolescents in schools and inmates in prison – and how their relationships came to be. Understanding why people have the friends that they do may help us to better understand outcomes such as delinquency, substance abuse, and peer pressure among teens, and a social network perspective can help answer such questions, he says. He has additional research interests in social psychology, group processes, criminology and health.

His research findings have been published in leading journals including American Sociological Review, Child Development, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Social Networks, among others. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the National Center for Border Security and Immigration. In 2012, he was awarded the biennial Freeman Award for distinguished contributions to the study of social structure by the International Network for Social Network Analysis.

Schaefer earned his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Arizona and spent ten years as faculty member at Arizona State University in the School of Social and Family Dynamics and School of Human Evolution & Social Change. He attributes his move to UCI to the strength of the sociology department in social network analysis and the campus’s commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching. He’s excited to collaborate with researchers across campus and train the next generation of scholars.

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