Fellows Feature: Aida Parnia & Regan Johnston

The fourth cohort fellows of the CAnD3 program contains a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. Through our Fellows Features, we aim to showcase these interests and offer insight into their passion through creating inclusive spaces and capturing their unique experiences within the CAnD3 program.

We caught up with two of our Fellows, Aida and Regan, to ask about their experiences with the CAnD3 program thus far. Read on to learn about their research and what they hope to achieve during the remainder of the program and beyond.

Feature image: Aida Parnia (left) and Regan Johnston (right)

Aida Parnia (she, her, hers, they, them, theirs)

Aida Parnia is a researcher focused on how social conditions shape our health differently and how these inequalities are sustained over time. Aida thinks health serves as a key indicator of how societal structures of oppression operate, intertwining in complex and multifaceted ways. Her passion lies in unraveling the complexities of white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, and how these structures contribute to unequal health outcomes.

As a PhD student in sociology at the University of Toronto, Aida views health as a comprehensive metric capturing the cumulative impact of various societal systems. “I am interested in this area because these structures are complex, have many dimensions and work in conjunction with each other,” Aida says.

Aida's professional journey came through diverse public health areas, including environmental health, cancer and health technology. She took a more defined turn towards social epidemiology, prompting her return to school to pursue sociology with a focus on the sociology of health.

Health is primarily a measure of how structures of oppression work in society. These structures work in conjunction with each other are complex and have many dimensions. When people try to understand how structures of white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, or capitalism affect our lives, the economic and social outcomes show us one way that these structures operate while health captures their total influence. Based on this idea, health seemed like a good starting point for studying these systems. “I am more specifically interested in migration as an experience that shapes a particular encounter with these structures and forces us to consider all of these dynamics globally,” says Aida.

Beyond her academic pursuits, Aida finds joy in a diverse range of activities during her free time. She enjoys cooking with her friends, immersing herself in books or writing, dancing in the music, capturing moments through photography, and nurturing her collection of plants.

In pursuit of furthering her expertise, Aida says learning at CAnD3 will contribute directly to her research and enhance her ability to answer complex questions in the field of population sciences. “I am particularly keen on learning from other scholars at CAnD3 and recognizing the continuous learning of the educational landscape in my field,”says Aida.

Learn more and connect with Aida.

Regan Johnston (she, her, hers)

Regan Johnston is a doctoral researcher in political science at McMaster University with a focus on exploring the effectiveness of hate crime laws in Canada and the United States in promoting normative and behavioral change. Regan was curious to find out why hate crimes in nation-states continue to increase despite a flurry of legislation to address it. These questions about hate crimes in nation-states drive her to employ a multidisciplinary methods approach in evaluating hate crime laws.

“Before undergoing a primarily quantitative focus, I was initially concentrated on qualitative methods,” says Regan. During a five-year gap between completing Master's degree and starting her PhD, Regan worked full-time and attended night classes to earn a certificate in Data Analytics, Big Data, and Predictive Analytics at Toronto Metropolitan University. She says it was how she discovered an interest in computational methods and she wanted to explore this interest on a policy issue.

Regan's most recent publication, "Pepe the frog, the greedy merchant and #stopthesteal": A comparative study of discursive and memetic communication on Twitter and 4chan/pol during the insurrection on the US Capitol," was published in New Media & Society. This study provides valuable insights into the dynamics of online communication during significant socio-political events.

During her free moments, Regan loves a variety of activities, from indulging in spine-tingling movies, fashioning intricate jewelry, embarking on adventurous hikes, immersing herself in fantasy football, or cherishing serene moments with her cat companions.

Participating in the CAnD3 training, Regan aims to advance her dissertation research and acquire skills applicable to future industry research positions. “As a social scientist, my hope is to use my background to find unique ways to address social problems,”says Regan.

Learn more and connect with Regan.

About the training program

The Population Analytics in an Aging Society Training Program is a rigorous one-year fellowship hosted by the Consortium on Analytics for Data-Driven Decision-Making (CAnD3), funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and based at McGill University. The program upskills rising researchers in Master's, PhD, and postdoctoral programs in the areas of population data science and computational population social science from a multidisciplinary lens. It also connects Fellows to experiential learning opportunities, which include hands-on research projects and internships with government, not-for-profit, and private sector CAnD3 partners. Since the first year of the program in 2020, CAnD3 has trained 52 Fellows and welcomes 22 new Fellows for the 2023-24 Academic Year.

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