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School of Medicine Student Receives META Fellowship to Study Social Media, Mental Health

Deepa Manjanathaa first-year student in the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at UC San Diego School of Medicine received a 2023 Meta Research PhD Fellowship award for “Human Computer Interaction - Social Media, People, and Society.” She will be one of 21 new fellows who were selected from a pool of over 3,200 applicants.

Manjanatha works with Cinnamon Bloss, PhD, at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Sciences at UC San Diego and is part of the Center for Empathy and Technology. Her research focuses on improving population mental health with an emphasis on addressing health disparities. Using a social determinants of health lens, which incorporates positive health, prevention and innovation, her objective is to build a deeper understanding of the association between specific social media behaviors and factors that predict health and illness over and above conventional risk factors like self-compassion and positive emotion to contribute to the overall understanding of these topics.

“I am interested in studying the potential and risks posed by technology on health and well-being,” said Manjanatha. “As technology becomes more and more intertwined with our lives, these topics become more pressing to understand more carefully and with a more nuanced lens.”

Manjanatha is part of the joint doctoral program offered at UC San Diego, a doctoral, joint faculties degree from the San Diego State University.

“Ultimately, I hope to be able to improve health and wellbeing — potentially incorporating any findings into bettering our mental health infrastructure — to make it easier for people to live healthier and happier lives,” Manjanatha said.

The Meta Research PhD Fellowship program awards doctoral candidates conducting research across computer science, engineering and behavioral science with full coverage of tuition and university fees for up to two academic years, as well as a $42,000 stipend to support their commitment to furthering research in some of Meta’s key interest areas.

In addition to funding, fellows are presented with numerous opportunities to engage with Meta researchers, enabling them to gain further insight into industry research and highlight their research, which may include a speaker series, collaborations and virtual networking events.

— Tyler DeLong and Yadira Galindo