Matthew A. Turner, Ph.D.

Computational social scientist

Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, Division of Social Sciences






Hello and welcome! I am currently a Pandemic Preparedness Postdoctoral Scholar working with James Holland Jones in the Social Sciences Division of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustatinability at Stanford University. My work focuses on developing mathematical and computer models to understand the social and cognitive causes of political polarization, cultural change, and disease transmission and evolution. Specifically, I study how factors such as internet-connected societies and misleading information lead to political polarization, as well as how to properly measure polarization. Regarding cultural change, I study how uncertainty leads individuals to rely more on learning from others, and what makes socially-learned behavioral adaptations or interventions sustainable, especially adaptations to climate change, such as seawall construction or electric vehicle use.

My Pandemic Preparedness Fellowship project, funded for 2022-2024, is to test whether and when the same social networks that could best promote behavioral interventions against pandemics, such as vaccination, can paradoxically also provide an environment in which disease variants could rapidly evolve and thrive.

I received my PhD in Cognitive and Information Sciences from the University of California, Merced. I have an MS degree in Applied Physics from Rice University, and a dual BS degree in Mathematics and Physics from Syracuse University. Between my master’s degree and PhD work, I worked in Moscow, Idaho, as a data engineer at an economic modeling firm and then as a lead research software developer at the University of Idaho working on a tristate (Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico) model- and data-intensive hydrology project.