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Dr Karen Mak
Dr Karen Mak profile picture
  • Senior Research Fellow in Epidemiology/Statistics
  • 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 had been a guest lecturer for the Social Science Research Methods Programme at Cambridge University.


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 the profile of engagers across the UK using theories from sociology, behavioural science, and geography. Her work involves partnership with cross-functional stakeholders including Arts Council England, Historic England, What Works Centre for Wellbeing, and the Social Prescribing NetworkKaren was a co-Investigator on an ESRC-grant on communities and wellbeing (WELLCOMM), and is current 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 led on regular reports to track real-time life social and psychological experiences during the pandemic. The study had been used to inform the UK government, Public Health England and NHS England.


Karen has been awarded the Researchers' Choice Communication Award, recognised by Elsevier and the US-UK Fulbright Commission, named a World Economic Forum Global Shaper (Recruitment Lead), and is awarded the WeAreTheCity's 2022 Rising Star Award in Education and Academia. 

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, behavioural science, and geography to understand what encourages some people to participate but acts as a barrier for others. 

Teaching Summary


Co-lead of the BSc Population Health Dissertation module


MSc Population Health: Basic Statisticsfor Medical Sciences 

MSc Health Psychology supervisor 

NOV-2022 Senior Research Fellow Department of Behavioural Science and Health University College London, United Kingdom
NOV-2018 – NOV-2022 Research Fellow Department of Behavioural Science and Health University College London, United Kingdom
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