49: Christopher "CJ" Calabrese



Program and Year of Study

PhD, 1st year 

Previous degrees and colleges

MPH, General Public Health, UC Davis

BS, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UC Davis

Where did you grow up?

Rocklin, CA

Where do you live now?

Davis, CA

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

Any coffee shop where I can grab an iced coffee

How do you relax?

Catch up with close friends, grab a delicious meal, or explore new places

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

It’s been a while.

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

When I’m watching TV, it’s usually something I like to have in the background while doing other things. I’ll usually have a weekly Korean music show or some reality show on.

Research interests

I am primarily interested in health and science communication, and how we can influence people’s behaviors to improve their overall health and wellness. My current research focuses on aspects of health promotion, social and communication networks, and persuasive technologies.

Dissertation title or topic

I’m still a first-year, so I have not committed to a specific topic. However, I would be interested in a dissertation generally related to how social networks influence health.

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

We found that using virality metrics—a visual cue of the number of likes or shares that accompany social media posts—in an HIV prevention campaign actually decreases people’s intentions to perform preventative behaviors. One would reasonably believe that this cue would increase people’s intentions, but we find a boomerang effect of virality metrics when looking at stigmatized health behaviors.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

Dr. Robert Bell was a great advisor when I was an MPH student, and encouraged me to apply to the PhD program in communication.

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

Dr. Damon Centola’s “Complex Contagions and the Weakness of Long Ties,” where he distinguished how information and diseases are spread through simple contagion, and behaviors are spread through complex contagion.

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

I am very interested in Dr. Jingwen Zhang’s research in using persuasive technologies for health promotion, especially her studies that examined how online platforms utilizing social networks increased physical activity among young adults. I find her research conducted in the CHATR (Communication in Health and Technology Research) Lab particularly fascinating.

Outside of my department, I have always been very interested in the research conducted by the faculty in the Department of Public Health Sciences.

What's the best thing about being a grad student?

I love the fact that we have the opportunity to explore our research interests, and collaborate and learn from our amazing faculty. 

What's the worst?

Time management. I am definitely still working on trying to schedule and balance my time effectively. 

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

In another life, I would be some type of performer or a TV host. Realistically, I’d probably be enjoying a career as a health educator. 

Finally, please ask yourself a question

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Take advantage of the many opportunities and resources at UC Davis to explore your research interests. UC Davis fosters a very collaborative environment for research, even between different departments. Don’t overburden yourself, but there are definitely interesting opportunities if you actively search for them.


—May 2018


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