Carnegie Mellon University
June 27, 2016

Meet Mark Patterson

Recent Ph.D. Grad To Lead the Quantitative Social Science Scholars (QSSS) Program

By Emily Stimmel

Mark Patterson headshotMark Patterson uses observational data to study how people make decisions, from the effects of weather on emotions to the impact of pharmaceutical marketing and food labels. So when it came time to choose a graduate school, Patterson carefully weighed the data — and it led him to Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Social and Decision Sciences.

Patterson was initially drawn to the doctoral program in behavioral decision research because of its diverse focus. It turned out to be a perfect match for his interests, which span mathematics, philosophy, economics and social sciences.

“I always described social and decision sciences as this unique combination of folks with training in all sorts of social sciences — economists, psychologists, historians, political scientists — all coming together to share ideas,” said Patterson.

Having recently finished his Ph.D., Patterson will now direct the Quantitative Social Science Scholars (QSSS) Program. QSSS was designed to help outstanding undergraduate students develop advanced quantitative technical skills to tap into the vast potential of data.

“I want to show students how cool and exciting data analysis can be,” said Patterson.

He served as QSSS interim director last year and, as the permanent director, will continue to support student development. Patterson will also teach three undergraduate courses in the program: Applied Quantitative Social Science I and II, and QSSS Proseminar I.

In the first two courses, students will learn about specializations within the field and interact directly with faculty at various stages of the research process. In QSSS Proseminar I, Patterson will advise seniors on research topics for their honors theses.

Patterson is eager to help shape the future of QSSS.

“I feel like the program is most successful when we’re able to surprise, excite and enchant our students with new questions,” said Patterson. “My hope is that we can maintain that excitement and curiosity — it’s what makes me feel so lucky to be here!”

He believes it’s a great time to be an educator in the field, thanks to a growing understanding of data science and improved access to big data.

“It’s an incredible time to be learning and teaching these things. These questions will keep social scientists busy for decades,” he said.

Saurabh Bhargava advised Patterson as a Ph.D. student and collaborated with him to update the Empirical Research Methods undergraduate course in the Social and Decision Sciences Department. Patterson will teach the course — now named Causal Inference in the Field — in the spring.

“Mark has a sky-high potential as a teacher, mentor and leader in education and curriculum design,” said Bhargava, assistant professor of economics in the Social and Decision Sciences Department. “I’ve learned a lot from him and have appreciated his warm, calming and cheerful presence in the department the last few years.”

He added, “QSSS is incredibly lucky to have him at the helm, and I look forward to seeing how the program evolves under his stewardship.”