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  • Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
  • Health + Nutrition
  • Behavior
Nathan Yang, assistant professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
Nathan Yang
Nathan Yang, assistant professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Photo provided

Academic focus: Marketing, behavioral analytics, empirical industrial organization, (mobile) health and wellness, and retail strategy

Research summary:

My recent research has been focused on leveraging behavioral science, big data, machine learning and/or mobile health (mHealth) to develop strategies that help improve the health and wellness of large populations of individuals. Some behavioral dimensions my research has studied include reference points (via goals or social comparisons), habit formation, consumption variety and self-control.

For example, I have been a co-lead on a project aimed at developing a new food recommendation system that accommodates for consumption variety — as we show empirically that variety is linked with healthier eating patterns (i.e. lower calories, greater share of vegetables vs. snacks). This has been an exciting project to work on as I’ve had the opportunity to work with researchers from nutrition science, behavioral marketing, psychology and computer science.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Pre-COVID: Traveling to visit family and friends.

Post-COVID: Hiking along trails with my wife and daughter.

What are your current outreach/extension projects?

Much of my past and ongoing research is in collaboration with weight loss companies and fitness apps.

What are three adjectives people might use to describe you?

Easy to get along with and open-minded.

What brought you to Cornell CALS?

My work tends to be quite interdisciplinary, and I was drawn to the wide-ranging research expertise at CALS.

What do you think is important for people to understand about your field?

The field of marketing is incredibly diverse, as it draws expertise from strategy, operations, economics, psychology, and more recently, computer science. With this scope of expertise, I believe that the marketing field is quite adaptive to the changing needs of business and society. For this reason, companies and policy makers are often quite eager to collaborate with marketing scholars.

Why did you feel inspired to pursue a career in this field?

I was drawn by the possibility of making a real-world impact via research. It is not uncommon for corporate collaborators to implement the actionable implications that marketing research generates.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about Ithaca so far?

The surprising thing about Ithaca is that it hasn’t become crowded with tourists, given its natural beauty.

If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve?

Much of my data comes from weight loss programs and popular mobile fitness apps. This data captures actual consumption information, though individuals choose whether or not to enter such information. I think it would be a worthwhile, though incredibly challenging, endeavor to cross-validate this data with information about their grocery purchases. It remains somewhat unclear how individuals make their food choice decisions, conditional on what food items are available in their cupboards and fridge.  

Learn more about Nathan on the S.C. Johnson College of Business website.

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