Teaching

For classes taught by Nicholas Christakis, click here.

For more general network science classes, please visit: http://yins.yale.edu/teaching

SOCIOLOGY 126

HEALTH OF THE PUBLIC: MEDICINE AND DISEASE IN SOCIAL CONTEXT

Syllabus, Spring 2015

Course Description: This course examines the social causes and context of illness, death, longevity, and health care in the USA today. Who stays healthy and who falls ill? Who has a long life and who has a short one? What is a good death and why do so few Americans achieve it? What is good medical care, who gets it, and why? What role do physicians play in producing health in our society? To what extent do factors outside individuals’ control (factors such as genetics, geography, social networks, parental traits, or hospital quality) influence health and health care? Does socioeconomic inequality in society harm individual health? Do certain kinds of social networks or neighborhoods improve health? How do social factors get under our skin and literally become embodied? What are the collective constraints on individuals’ life prospects? What is the difference between an individualistic and a public health-oriented perspective on illness? And what issues of ethics and justice are raised by such questions? Would a different organization of society, different public expenditures, or different public policies matter? While exploring these questions, we will also consider how social scientists, biologists, epidemiologists, public health experts, and doctors address them—how they use theory to understand them and how they make “causal inferences” based on observational or experimental data. However, students are not expected to have in-depth knowledge of social science methods or statistics. The readings span the medical, public health, and social science literatures, and they reflect both qualitative and quantitative approaches. They also introduce new areas of “biosocial science” and techniques of “big data” as applied to health. In many ways, this course serves as an introduction to the field of public health.

 

SOCIOLOGY 554

HUMAN NATURE LAB WORKSHOP

Course Description: This workshop is designed to be a continuous part of the graduate curriculum. Meeting weekly throughout both the fall and spring terms, it constitutes an ongoing, informal seminar dedicated to exploring fundamental properties of network science. Some work involves the use of large-scale, online experiments. Other work examines the biological determinants and consequences of social network interactions, with a particular emphasis on the genetic origins and implications of human network interactions. Ongoing investigations in the lab consider the biodemographic determinants of longevity and the genetic bases for human behaviors. The research discussed has implications for diverse behavioral interventions, and for clinical and policy maneuvers to prevent and treat illness. Discussions range widely among methodological, theoretical, empirical, and normative issues. Sessions alternate between presentations by students of their own work and by visitors. Contents of the workshop vary from term to term, and from year to year. Enrollment is open for credit to students who submit written work.

 

SOCIOLOGY 636b

TOPICS IN BIOSOCIAL SCIENCE

Syllabus, Spring 2015

Course Description: This graduate seminar (with limited enrollment, but open to anyone) will cover topics at the intersection of the natural and social sciences, including behavior genetics, gene-environment interactions, social epigenetics, and diverse other topics. We will focus on the ways in which our genes and our bodies are in a (short and long) conversation with our social environment. To what extent does our genetic makeup influence our behaviors? To what extent do our behaviors and social experiences influence our genes? To what extent do our genes increase or decrease our risk for particular outcomes given particular environmental exposures? What are the biological bases of resilience? And how does the social environment come to regulate our genome? How do social exposures reshape neural and endocrine processes? How do social exposures “get under our skin”? How are they literally embodied? This class is a topical seminar, meaning that the material covered each year will vary, and that it will be driven by student interest and fresh scientific discoveries. We are going to run this seminar jointly, and students will suggest topics, articles, critiques, and so on, at will. Students will also lead classes, and suggest topics and readings for those classes. As a result, the syllabus will likely change as the semester progresses. Each student will lead one or more classes (depending on enrollment and topics). A set of proposed topics and readings for the first part of the course is laid out below.