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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. Her thesis focused on trajectories of substance use and substance use problems among young people in the United States. During the time of her PhD, Karen was an undergraduate supervisor of the Social Context of Health and Illness module at the Faculty of Biology at Cambridge University. She has also worked as a demonstrator and a lecturer at the Social Sciences Research Methods Centre (SSRMC), which provides research methods to postgraduate students and staff across the University. 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. 

Karen is a co-Investigator on an ESRC-grant on communities and wellbeing (WELLCOMM) that is working in partnership with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing and the National Social Prescribing Network. She is also involved in the UCL Covid-19 Social Study, led by Dr Daisy Fancourt, leading on weekly reports on the data from the study. 

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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