Student Spotlight: Tianyao Qu

Tianyao Qu is a doctoral student in sociology from China. After earning her B.A. in sociology at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, she chose to pursue further study at Cornell due to influential authors’ choices to study at Cornell, the field of sociology’s concentrations in economic sociology and social network studies, and the opportunity to experience the seasons and beauty of Ithaca.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

My research interests focus on economic sociology, social networks, and health. I am interested in how social relations shape individuals’ evaluation of unquantifiable goods in the market transaction. I pay special attention to how emotional needs and affection play a role in generating values during the transaction process. This reflects a mass demand for emotional connections in the era of the internet community. Also, I study the relationships between people’s social networks and their health. For example, how social resources embedded in our social connections and daily interactions lead to health disparities, and how people’s health conditions can exert a profound impact on their positions in their networks. The close correlation between one’s health status and personal networks is important to study as the latter provides much informational, instrumental, and expressive support when in need.

What are the larger implications of this research?

I view my research as an attempt to explore the distinctive perspectives of ways to build on or maintain social connections, from health, cultural, and emotional aspects, particularly for those marginalized or vulnerable groups in transitional or turbulent situations. My larger research goal is to find out new processes of social connection formation for people living in the current society.

Which conference did you attend with your Graduate School Conference Grant?

Chinese Sociological Academic Annual Meeting 2019 (CSA) in Kunming, China; 2020 Sunbelt Virtual Conference

What did you take away from the experience of presenting at an online conference? If you have previously presented at an in-person conference, how did this experience differ?

Presenting at an online conference can be challenging due to technical difficulties. It was different from the in-person conference that I attended before in the way that the in-person one had a natural environment for interactions. But the online conferences also bring opportunities to attend many panels and talks by reducing the time on the commute.

Have the semesters of remote or hybrid learning helped prepare you for online conferences?

As a graduate student at Cornell, I have had the privilege of being quarantined in a private and quiet room since the outbreak, where I can, fortunately, continue my study routines and prepare myself for the online conference.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

I enjoy playing the piano, watching dramas, and playing with my cat during my leisure time.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

Cornell has been my dream school since my childhood as many of the great authors during China’s new culture movement (1919) studied at or graduated from Cornell. As a woman enlightened by their cultural and liberal views, I wished to study at the birthplace of these influential thoughts. During my undergraduate study, I read many fascinating pieces of research written by faculty at Cornell, through which I knew Cornell sociology has been particularly strong in economic sociology and social network studies. The unique research of concentrations on these two fields of Cornell sociology confirmed my resolution to be part of its research community. Besides, as growing up in a southern city in China thus being bored with constant summer, I find Ithaca a nice place to stay that is filled with beauty and a diversity of natural environments!

Read the story on the Cornell University Graduate School website.

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