Ai Ye is a doctoral student in psychology and neuroscience and a master’s student in statistics and operational research. She received her master’s degree in education from UCLA and her bachelor’s degree in engineering from Wuhan University in Hubei, China. She moved from southern China to the United States in 2012 to pursue her graduate education. In addition to being an international student, she also is a first-generation graduate student. Her research spans across social and behavioral science to health sectors such as anesthesiology and epidemiology.
What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?
It was primarily my Ph.D. program and the research work of my current adviser, Dr. Kenneth Bollen, that brought me here. I was a master’s student at UCLA before I chose UNC. I studied the type of statistical method using textbooks and articles written by my current adviser. His research has a wide range of applications in the field. After a few correspondences with my adviser, I found him a very responsive person beyond being a rigorous researcher. I immediately made up my mind to make my effort to work with him. Another bonus is the fact that alumni from this program have been positioned at very competitive positions in academia or in industry, which says a lot about the strength of the program.
Tell us about your work.
I am a quantitative psychology Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and a mathematical statistics M.S. student in the Department of Statistics and Operations Research at UNC-Chapel Hill. I also work as a part-time research assistant with a company called RTI International (HQ), located in Durham.
My primary research aims to resolve the quantitative methodological issues that commonly arise in psychological sciences. My research aim is to search for effective ways of unpacking psychological data that help us understand underlying mechanisms. Two general themes surround my overarching goal: 1) the measurement of unobserved or latent variables such as personality, emotion, or depression and 2) the modeling of the developmental processes. Specifically, my work focuses on statistical computing and programming to advance the estimation procedure of these models, as well as the casual versus associational interpretations of the results based on model assumptions.
Secondarily, I have a substantive line of research that involves applications in varying contexts including but not limited to educational and psychological science, social and behavioral, clinical and health practice, and social epidemiological research. My substantive research is situated predominantly in establishing developmental theories and dealing with questions such as identifying indicators of underlying developmental processes in personal traits, health outcomes, or chronic diseases. The understanding of how individuals differ or develop at different life stages can help people reach their full potential or prevent the onset of a rare disease. Please visit my website for further descriptions of my work if you are interested.
What are some of your favorite places and things to do in your home country?
I love my hometown. I was born in a small-to-medium city called Jingzhou and moved to Wuhan (which is one hour away by train) after high school. The two cities are in Hubei province, located near the east coast and the center or slightly south part of China – they are actually similar to where the Triangle area is located in the U.S. Both places are ancient cities and now tourist sites, which carry a lot of historical stories. Jingzhou preserves many ancient city walls and castles, surrounded by moats and later built parks. One of the family activities is to take a walk to the walls and castles or to ride a bike along with one of the moats. It is quite scenic. There are entertainment activities for tourism all year round, like horse and carriage riding, archery, boating, cosplay, etc. We typically won’t try those ourselves, except sometimes we do rent a boat and have a small picnic in the middle of the lake.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?
I want to position myself between academia and research sectors. That is how my Ph.D. career has been and I really enjoy the collaborative culture in the Triangle research hub community. I want to continue this pattern where I could conduct methodological work while having it immediately apply to empirical contexts.