Chris Katyal: Examining the Effect of Social Media on Public Perception of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hi everyone! My name is Chris Katyal and I am a history major on a pre-med track. My goals are to go to medical school after my time at Pitt. I really think that this fellowship will help me in two main ways. First, I will have a great thing to put on my CV for med school. Second, the things that I learn from this fellowship will help me in any future research that I may conduct. I am very interested in viruses and epidemiology, and one of my possible career paths is to study infectious diseases. With the knowledge that I gain from this fellowship I will be able to publish my research and conduct more meaningful research.

My research project focuses on how the news articles people get from social media change their bias. I have noticed especially during the pandemic that people are more and more divided over their ideas. Social media does not help this because it uses what we like to give us articles that the program knows that we will agree with. The point of my project is to take a survey of a group of people that asks them pandemic related questions on controversial subjects to determine what their views are. An example of these questions is “Do you think that the vaccines are effective?” After this survey I will send them all an unbiased article every week for a period of 6-7 weeks. The hypothesis is that them reading these articles every week might move them closer to the middle. My research mentor is Dr. Joe Suyama. Dr. Suyama works as the head of the Emergency Department at Magee Women’s Hospital. He also is one of the heads of the COVID-19 Medical Response Office at Pitt. He is experienced on both the clinical side of COVID as well as the ‘social’ side. What I mean by that is he has made decisions concerning whether or not to impose restrictions at Pitt, so he is well versed in the sociological factor of the pandemic.

Here’s a picture of me. My favorite candy are Kit Kats, so my nickname on my baseball team was kit kat Katyal.

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