sammardinI’m an EPSRC-funded PhD candidate in computational social science at the University of Bath. I aim to understand how online tribalism affects the spread of harmful misinformation about minority groups, using an approach that blends data science methods and machine learning with classic behavioural psychology theory.

Python is my tool of choice for most things, and I’m learning JavaScript alongside it.

Before coming to Bath, I worked for a London-based fintech startup, as a journalist in Istanbul, and in public relations in Doha, Qatar.

Prior to that, I lived in China and studied Mandarin for almost four years, including a memorable year on the North Korean border. I’ve travelled widely ever since.

Having this diverse international background often helps me to generate ideas at the intersections of disciplines – ideas like the ones that produced my PhD.

My current fascination is with the ethical concerns related to big tech – artificial intelligence in particular. Mis/disinformation on social media is just one area where algorithms are being used to tap into our human biases and magnifying them onto a global scale. We’re seeing them affect almost every walk of life, including our political landscape.

That’s why we (e.g. the lay person, policymakers) need to stop being intimidated by code. We need to understand more about what’s in the black boxes, instead of assuming that a decision must be correct ‘because the computer says so’. I hope to apply my research skills to problems like these in the future.

When I’m not coding or digging through reams of psychology literature, I enjoy lifting weights, reading, keeping up my Mandarin, attending tech meetups, or playing an occasional game of Werewolf.

Casual tech interests (i.e. things that I read about in my free time and would love to understand better – one day!) include blockchain, network programming, and cybersecurity.