Award-winning student joins Dr. Wellman's NAVEL team
Xiaolin (Jo-Lynn) Zhuo won the prestigious University of Toronto Excellence Award (UTEA) in Social Sciences and Humanities. The award will be applied to her work this summer on NAVEL, one of 34 projects within the GRAND network.
Posted by GRAND NCE, June 13, 2011

Undergraduate student, Ms. Xiaolin (Jo-Lynn) Zhuo won the prestigious University of Toronto Excellence Award (UTEA) in Social Sciences and Humanities. The award will be applied to her work this summer on NAVEL, one of 34 projects within the GRAND network. 

Jo-Lynn, one of seven award recipients, will put her background in Applied Math and Sociology to good use. She will be working with internationally renown sociologist Dr. Barry Wellman who is spearheading the NAVEL project. 

UTEA Award Winner Jo-Lynn with supervisor Dr. Barry WellmanNAVEL, short for Network Assessment and Validity for Effective Leadership, will track and analyze how well GRAND’s collaborative and multidisciplinary research is managed. In her research, Jo-Lynn will first analyze the personal networks of GRAND researchers, and then link that information into mapping an overview of the entire GRAND network.

The Excellence Award, worth more than $5,000, is intended to help build unit research programs and to provide students with an experience that will allow them to make informed decisions about pursuing a career in research. 

We spoke with Xiaolin (Jo-Lynn) Zhuo upon notification of the award.

Q: What academic background do you come from?
A: “I started out as a double major in Math and Sociology. I took Professor Wellman’s course on Internet and Society, and decided that I wanted to focus on sociology . It was more interesting, unpredictable, and applicable to making a better world. So now I am a specialist in Sociology, with minors in Math and Philosophy.”

Q: What are your plans after your undergraduate degree? 
A: “My dream is to go to a top sociology graduate school.”

Q: What role does math play in your studies? 
A: “My math skills help me in a lot of ways. Statistics is central to sociology, and I have a good sense of linear algebra and matrices that are useful in my analyses. I’m also learning graph theory, which is central to social network analysis.”

Q: What are your research plans for the summer?
 A: “This summer I am going to combine my sociology and math skills working with the NAVEL project. NAVEL is studying the social networks connecting researchers and projects within the GRAND NCE. I already constructed the personal networks of the researchers, both the  Principal Network Investigators and Collaborating Network Investigators, who completed a NAVEL survey last year. T he graphs of personal networks were then distributed to the investigator. Each personal network showed both direct work relations and ‘second-degree’ relation;: who the direct work relations were themselves connected to. To preserve confidentiality, we did not label the people in each network, but did show what disciplinary areas they were in.”

“Next, I will analyze the GRAND investigators’ collaboration, information exchange, and sociability. I will analyze them for network size, and variation in the network members’ disciplines, projects, university affiliation, seniority, gender, geographical location, and social media used. This will show how people operate in their own networks and the extent to which GRAND provides interdisciplinary synergy.”

“My following step will be to analyze the overall GRAND network – to provide more understanding of the social structure and relationships in GRAND. We will look at different relationships, such as working together and friendship, and will identify centrality, role relationships, etc.”

Q: Who are you working with this summer?  
A: “I’m fortunate to be working with a really supportive team of collaborators/mentors: Barry Wellman, NAVEL's Principal Network Investigator (Sociology, University of Toronto), Anatoliy Gruzd, Collaborating Network Investigator (Information, Dalhousie University), Dimitrina Dimitrova, Project Director (Sociology, York University), Tsahi Hayat (Information doctoral student, University of Toronto) and Mo Guang Ying (Sociology doctoral student, University of Toronto).” 

Q: In a few words, how would describe GRAND? 
A: “It's exciting to be part of such an interdisciplinary network that combines things I love: computer science, math and sociology. As I am studying GRAND all summer, I'll have a better sense of it by September.”