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What research are you currently working on? What makes it unique?

In my past research, I identified various “threats” to social cohesion. For instance, news coverage about contentious political issues make citizens more polarized, and strongly opinionated people become more extreme and hostile toward “the other side” after they meet with people who hold dissimilar political views. I now expand upon this foundation to test how to increase understanding between dissimilar social groups.  Some of the questions I explore include the following: What kind of media messages decrease prejudice? Are there ways to encourage people to select online content that challenges what they personally believe and — as importantly — to make them more open to this content? This research is unique not only because it aims to counter and identify solutions to the growing sociopolitical polarization in many countries, the U.S. included. Also, it has practical implications, and the findings from this research can be applied by media and governmental or nongovernmental organizations working toward enhancing tolerance and respect.

If you could impart one piece of advice to our undergraduates seeking a course of study/career path, what would it be?

First, a cliché: choose a career path that not only inspires you (after all, you WILL need to work hard and spend many hours studying, reading and writing). Second and more importantly, chose a path that you think may make a difference in the lives of others, in your community, in the world. We academics and professionals dedicate our time, energy, resources and brain-power to the field we chose. Make sure that all this time and money makes the world a better place in some ways.

When not in the classroom or conducting research, what do you like to do?

You can find me in a swimming pool, playing with my little daughters, or practicing Tibetan Buddhism (i.e., meditating) in our local Diamond Way Buddhist center.

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

Breathing under water :) I love swimming in the sea or in the ocean for hours. And even though I enjoy diving (I have two PADI certificates), the wetsuit and the diving equipment make me feel less part of the water. So being able to see and experience the underwater world with my swimming goggles only would be amazing.

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