Carnegie Mellon University

Two Named Facebook Fellows


Two Named Facebook Fellows

Leslie JohnLeslie John (right), a doctoral student in behavioral economics, and Mladen Kolar, a Ph.D. student in the Machine Learning Department, have been named inaugural Facebook Fellows. John and Kolar are two of five named to the inaugural class.

“We started this program because the academic community plays a central role in addressing many of our most challenging research questions on topics ranging from cloud and social computing to Internet economics and machine learning,” said Greg Badros, director of engineering at Facebook. “Our first class of fellows include students researching crowdsourced online help, the structure of networks, information disclosure, online advertising and data analysis.

“We think all of the winners and finalists represent some of the brightest minds in academia today, and we're looking forward to their continued research. Each fellow receives paid tuition and fees, a $30,000 stipend, conference travel and other benefits,” Badros said.

John is researching new dimensions of privacy and how people decide what information to disclose. She applied for a fellowship to extend her research to the context of social networking. She earned a master's degree in psychology and behavioral economics from Carnegie Mellon and a bachelor's degree in psychology, arts and business from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

Mladen Kolar"I've been doing research at the intersection of psychology, economics, and marketing; my primary focus is to try to understand when and why people are willing or unwilling to divulge personal information,” John told Facebook.

“With collaborators George Loewenstein and Alessandro Acquisti, I've been finding that people's concern for privacy and propensity to self-disclose can be influenced, both upward and downward, by factors that are difficult to justify. For example, cues that should alert people to a threat of privacy can instead suppress privacy concern, and elicit self-disclosure. Likewise, we've also been finding that cues that should calm privacy concern can instead do the opposite, by rousing privacy concern and suppressing revelation."

Kolar, a graduate of Croatia’s University of Zagreb in electrical engineering and computing, is studying the structure of networks and how they change and evolve over time. He has looked at how legislators’ positions and interactions have changed based on voting records and reverse engineered how genes regulate each other over time.

“Much of my research has focused on models for networks, which are simple, yet powerful tools for capturing relationships among individuals,” Kolar told Facebook. “Networks help us answer some of the fundamental questions of interest, such as: 'What role(s) do individuals play when they interact with different peers?' and 'How do social groups form and dissolve as a response to external stimuli?' "

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