Bio (short)

Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is a social scientist and physician who conducts research in the areas of biosocial science, network science, and behavior genetics. He directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University, and is the Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science. He is the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science, appointed in the Departments of Sociology; Medicine; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; and Biomedical Engineering at Yale University.

Dr. Christakis received his BS from Yale University in 1984, his MD from Harvard Medical School and his MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1989, and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1995. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 and was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010.

He began his career at the University of Chicago in 1995, where he was appointed as a Professor in the Departments of Sociology and Medicine. He moved his lab to Harvard University in 2001, where he was again appointed as a Professor in the Departments of Sociology and Medicine. While at Harvard, he also served as the Master of Pforzheimer House in Harvard College. In 2013, he moved his lab to Yale University.

His current research focuses on our biology and health affect and are affected by social interactions and social networks. One body of work has focused on how ill health, disability, health behavior, health care, emotional states, and death in one person can influence the same phenomena in others in a person’s social network. This work involves the application of network science and mathematical models to understand the dynamics of diverse phenomena in longitudinally evolving networks (here and here).

Other recent work has used experiments to examine the spread of altruism (here, here, and here) in social networks and the genetic and evolutionary determinants of social network structure (here, here, and here). Christakis has also conducted large-scale field trials in the developing world to explore how network methods might be deployed to change health behavior at the population level.

Along with his long-time collaborator, James H. Fowler, Dr. Christakis had authored a book on social networks, published in 2009, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. This book has been translated into nearly 20 foreign languages, and it has been widely reviewed.

Dr. Christakis’ past work was focused on topics related to end-of-life care, such as hospice care, widowhood and caregiver burden, ICU decision-making, and the role of prognostication in medicine (about which he has written three books, including clinical textbooks).

In 2009, Christakis was named by Time magazine to their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2009 and in 2010, he was listed by Foreign Policy magazine in their annual list of Top 100 Global Thinkers.