Say Hello to Our New Network Research Scientist, Laura Johnson!

Laura Johnson

We’re excited to welcome our new Network Research Scientist, Laura Johnson, to Visible Network Labs! Laura will be supporting our Data Science Team, and contributing to the development of PARTNERme, our person-centered social connectedness screening and referral tool.

Laura is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Health from the University of Nevada, Reno, and has a background in various academic, public-sector, and private-sector settings, conducting quantitative and qualitative research to address a range of important social issues.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m joining VNL as I wrap up my graduate training in Public Health from the University of Nevada, Reno. For the past 4 years, I’ve been part of a team focusing on how social networks can both help and hamper efforts to minimize risks around health topics such as HIV transmission or opioid overdose. Before that, I worked in a variety of settings using data and research methods to address other important issues, including promoting religious tolerance and understanding the impacts of traumatic brain injury, as two examples.

What is your new position and what do you hope to accomplish in it?

In my role as a Network Research Scientist at VNL, I’m contributing to the development of the PARTNERme platform. I hope to continue building and strengthening this tool so that it can more fully capture the complexity and nuance of interpersonal networks. I hope that people using the platform gain insights about themselves and their relationships, and that folks can use these insights to leverage their personal networks for the better.

Who is a significant mentor in your life?

My undergraduate mentor, Dr. Dawn Robinson, is a Sociologist at the University of Georgia and she introduced me to networks as both a theory and a method for understanding the social world. In working with her, I learned there was a whole field of network scientists studying things we all intuitively understand to be true (e.g., birds of a feather flock together).

Having a networks perspective has transformed the way I think about my own personal relationships, but it has also helped me understand broader societal issues–things like health, poverty, racism, crime–as network-level and systems-level issues. Solutions to these problems, therefore, also require a networks approach. It’s not enough to have a good idea–you’ve also got to get that idea to spread through communication, coordination, and relationship building. In other words, we need to build, strengthen, and exploit features of social networks to solve society’s most pressing matters.

Where is your favorite place to visit on vacation?

One of the coolest places I’ve visited is Fern Canyon in northern California. It’s a hike where you’re walking in a narrow canyon that’s also a river bed and the walls of the canyon on either side (roughly 50ft high) are completely covered in lush green ferns. It felt like being in an otherworldly place like Middle Earth or Narnia. More generally, I like to visit universities and breweries anytime I travel. For me, these settings can be both familiar/comfortable and unique/interesting. 

(See below–for scale, I’m in the lower corner of the left pic!)

Laura Johnson Vacation

If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and why?

If everyone’s getting granted superpowers, I’m going to go ahead and assume that other people have taken care of the serious stuff–eliminating war and famine and so on. Therefore, I’m going to be a bit selfish and small-scale with my superpower: I would like to be able to pause time while I sleep. That way I could stay up late and get up early and sleep as much as I want without giving up any of the things I want to do–time with family, travels, reading, work, or other creative projects.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?

I enjoy reading non-fiction books about a variety of topics, such as psychology, philosophy, finance, religion, science, and work. I also love listening to podcasts; I’m currently subscribed to 93 (!) but there’s only about 20 that I listen to regularly.  I enjoy observing unique corners of American society–the good, bad, and ugly are all quite fascinating to me!

Be sure to stay tuned to our Visible Us Blog for more product updates and VNL Team content!

About the Author: Will Jacobson

Will Jacobson is the Business Development Representative on VNL’s Marketing and Communications Team. Originally from New York City, Will loves living in Colorado and all the outdoor life it has to offer. He’s also a pretty big foodie!

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