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Dr Karen Mak
Dr Karen Mak profile picture
  • Research Fellow in Quantitative Social Science
  • Behavioural Science and Health
  • Institute of Epidemiology & Health
  • Faculty of Pop Health Sciences

Karen (Hei Wan) Mak’s first degree was a BA (Hons) in Sociology from Warwick University. Following this, she obtained an MSc degree in Sociology from Oxford University and a PhD degree from Cambridge University. She has been a guest lecturer for the Social Science Research Methods Programme at Cambridge University for 5 years.


In 2018, Karen joined the Department of Behavioural Science and Health at UCL, where she explores how arts and cultural engagement is associated with improvements in mental health/wellbeing and identifies facilitators and barriers to engagement drawing theories from sociology, psychology and geography. Her work involves partnership with Arts Council England, Historic England, What Works Centre for Wellbeing, and the Social Prescribing Network. Karen is currently a co-Investigator on an ESRC-grant on communities and wellbeing (WELLCOMM), and is part of the research team at the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Arts & Health.


During the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, Karen joined the UCL COVID-19 Social Study team (one of the largest COVID-19 studies with over 70,000 respondents) and leads on regular reports to track real-time life social and psychological experiences during the pandemic. The study has been used to inform the UK government, Public Health England and NHS England.


Karen has been awarded the Researchers' Choice Communication Award 2020, recognised by Elsevier and the US-UK Fulbright Commission, and is being named a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. 

Research Summary

Having a background in Sociology, Karen (Hei Wan)'s research interests centre on using nationally representative data/cohort studies to examine the social determinants of health-related behaviours, mental health and mental wellbeing, including early life experiences, family relationships, neighbourhood factors, and arts and cultural community engagement. Her current research focuses on two main themes:(i) exploring the wellbeing benefits of the arts & cultural community engagement at a population level, and (ii) drawing on various theories from sociology, psychology and geography to understand what encourages some people to participate but acts as a barrier for others. 

Teaching Summary


MSc Population Health: Basic Statistics for Medical Sciences 

Graduate supervision availability and interests:

Karen is available to supervise postgraduate students with strong interest in quantitative research methods and in areas relating to arts and cultural engagement and health/wellbeing.

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