177 Huntington Avenue
1010 177 Floor
Boston, MA 02115
ATTN: Kathryn Coronges, 1010 - 177
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
- PhD in health behavior research, University of Southern California
- Master’s degree in public health, University of Southern California
- BS in in molecular, cellular, and development biology, University of California Santa Cruz
Kate Coronges is the executive director of the Network Science Institute (NetSI) at Northeastern University. She provides research and administrative leadership to the institute, contributing to NetSI’s long-term strategic plan, and building its role in the larger scientific community. Her research focuses on social structures, dynamics of teams and communities, and the impact of these dynamics on communication patterns, behaviors and performance.
Prior to joining the Network Science Institute, Coronges ran the US Army’s research portfolios in social and cognitive networks and in social informatics. She also served as an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy. Additionally, she served for 10 years as managing editor for Connections, the official journal of the International Network of Social Network Analysis.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, (cough — before it was “cool” — cough) until moving across the country to attend college at UC Santa Cruz. After that, I lived in Los Angeles for about 10 years before moving back to the Northeast.
What are the specifics of your educational/career background?
After receiving my PhD in health behavior research, I took a position in the sociology program at West Point. While there, I developed an academic minor in network science and taught courses in social network analysis and social networks for public policy. I began working with the Army’s basic research community and was charged with setting up a new research program in social networks. West Point — needless to say — was a dramatic change from life in Southern California, but it was an exciting change. Work gatherings now consisted of military-minded intellectuals, soldiers taking a break from their real jobs, and exceptionally engaged students training to become Platoon Leaders. Every now and then, a naughty cadet — who had to march around campus with a rifle as punishment — would mistakenly leave their M-4 by the chips and guac platter. You know, the usual.
What are the key aspects of your role at Northeastern? What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Serving as Executive Director at NetSI is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I have been so privileged to take on. My position allows me tremendous autonomy to forge partnerships between our institute and academic, industry, and government entities. Much of my time is spent developing research programs, shaping our strategy and vision, and writing grants. I love this aspect of research, while I get to leave the heavy technical work to my colleagues. Thank you, colleagues!
Northeastern is a vibrant force in the research community, consistently pushing boundaries and growing in an unconventional, rogue way. Northeastern was mastering “experiential learning” decades before it became a popular educational strategy. This foresight has made our culture more flexible than other universities, allowing us to foster truly interdisciplinary thinking. Taking a quick glance around the office at NetSI, I see physicists, political scientists, behavioral scientists, computer scientists, and scientist scientists all working together, feverishly scribbling equations on windows (please wipe those down when you’re done, Sean), unified under a common scientific pull. Complex networks are everywhere, something that every scientific field must grapple with. And while interdisciplinary work is the most difficult, most conceptually-risky, most leave-your-comfort-zone-at-home kind of work, I am constantly reminded just how lucky I am to be able to participate in this process.
What led you to work in your field and/or study at your college?
I studied biology as an undergraduate, spending all my ‘off’ hours with rubber gloves and pipets in various labs — sort of a more academic “Breaking Bad.” This led me to a job at a VA Hospital in Seattle, where I was involved in a team of researchers studying the Epstein Barr Virus. After college, I worked at a biotech company for a while, but quickly gravitated to a job in the human sciences. I got a very boring job at a nutritional supplement company in a ridiculously beautiful location with ridiculously lovely people.
I ended up at USC, where I studied human physiology, first looking at factors contributing to childhood obesity, then at implicit processes related to drug use. Then, one fateful day, I met with social networks genius Tom Valente as part of the required student-faculty rotations required by the NIH/NIDA grant that I funded was on. We had quick, almost perfunctory chat about networks – social and cognitive ones, biological and ecological ones. I found that the language of networks immediately gave a syntax and structure for the world that I felt I had known for a long time but had never had the right words or tools to describe. I was hooked and never looked back. I switched my advisor and my dissertation topic to explore the use of social networks in disseminating drug intervention programs in high-risk youth. From there, it’s all been networks, networks, networks.