Laura K. Nelson

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Director, Centre for Computational Social Science



Dr. Nelson uses computational methods – principally text analysis, natural language processing, machine learning, and network analysis techniques – to study social movements, culture, gender, and organizations and institutions. Substantively, her research has examined processes around the formation of collective identities and social movement strategy in feminist and environmental movements, continuities between cycles of activism and the role of place in shaping social movement activity, intersectionality in women’s movements and in the lived experiences during the 19th century in the U.S. South, gender inequality in startups and entrepreneurship, the translation of academic ideas to practice in the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program (a program aimed at promoting women in STEM field in higher education), and gender inequality in emergency medicine departments. Methodologically, she has proposed frameworks to combine computational methods and machine learning with qualitative methods, including the computational grounded theory framework and leveraging the alignment between machine learning and the intersectionality research paradigm. She has developed and taught courses introducing social science and humanities students to computational methods and the scripting languages Python and R, data science courses, and graduate-level sociological theory. She is currently a co-PI on a million-dollar grant through the National Science Foundation to study the spread of gender-equity ideas related to STEM fields through higher education networks, primarily in the United States.

Research Area: Social Movements, Culture, Gender, Organizations and Institutions

My current research projects include examining intersectionality in U.S. women’s movements; coverage of social movements in news media over time; ways in which history is recorded and remembered, particularly related to social movements; gender inequality in startups and entrepreneurship, emergency medicine, and other STEM fields; and the spread of gender-equity ideas related to STEM fields through networks in higher education (funded by a National Science Foundation grant).