DPhil Student Spotlight: Xinyi Zhao

DPhil Student Spotlight: Xinyi Zhao

Xinyi joined the Department and St Hugh's College in 2021, after studying Bachelor's and MSc degrees in Cartography & GIS. She is supervised by Ridhi Kashyap & Emilio Zagheni, and is affiliated with the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.
Image of Xinyi Zhao sitting down
Why study Sociology?

My background in GIS technology opened a new door to me where human factors interact with those relating to the physical environment.

Through this technology, the complex world of human behaviours can be understood and predicted with advanced tools and various types of data. For example, satellite imagery can link the built environment to population health and other demographic factors, and geographically referenced data can improve overall knowledge of demographic events, including population change and migration processes.

Driven by such observations and learning experiences, I aim to bring some unique and useful insights to demography and sociology, particularly relating to questions linked to migration and gender disparities.

What first attracted you to the course at Oxford?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I was impressed by the contributions to data-driven policy interventions from Oxford's Sociology Department and the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science (LCDS) I kept tracking their latest research discoveries about social interactions and pandemics, fervently hoping to be a member of the team. This research has greatly motivated me to resolve the most challenging demographic problems of our time. 

Additionally, I was drawn to the excellent research by my supervisor, Professor Ridhi Kashyap. She examines the implications of digital technologies on demographic outcomes, such as monitoring global digital gender inequality using the online populations of Facebook and Google. Her work has instilled in me much inspiration and enthusiasm to do my research, and I feel privileged to work with her. 

What are your research interests?

My main research interests include applying digital and computational innovations (e.g. new types of data and methods) in demography and social science, with a particular interest in gender disparity in academia. I am also interested in the fields of Scientometrics, spatial data analysis, and GIS.

What have you enjoyed most about studying within Oxford's Sociology department?

I enjoy the DPhil workshops and seminars that the department provides for us to develop our research skills, and to keep track of cutting-edge research.  

During workshops in our first year, we had the opportunity to present and actively discuss our project proposals. The constructive comments from other DPhil students helped me a lot in improving my work. I felt more engaged in a multi-disciplinary environment where I have learnt a lot from other students’ work within different areas.

Who are your academic heroes?

My academic heroes are my supervisors, Professor Ridhi Kashyap and Professor Emilio Zagheni! Both of them are excellent computational demographers and also my academic role models. 

What do you hope to do when you finish your course?

Ideally, I'd like to find a Postdoc position to continue my research and further fulfil myself after graduation. In the long run, I hope to conduct data-driven social science research and demographic research that informs the public about the issues and attitudes shaping our world, either in academia or in research centres like think tanks. 

Published Research

You can get in touch with Xinyi via email.