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Originally from Germany, I have become interested in experiencing life and connecting with people in other countries. An exchange year in the US, my undergraduate degree at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and my current studies here in England have allowed me to cherish both new cultures and friendships as well as my home country and my relationships with friends and family members there. Observing how frequently relocating shapes one's personal social network as well as how whole communities of temporary members form and develop motivates my research interests.

Maria Kempnich

BSc (Psychology) | MSc (Psychological Research)

Intergroup Conflict (Prof. Miles Hewstone)

Investigating how social networks adapt to mobile societies

research interests

I am interested in how social networks adapt to mobile societies. Relocating domestically or internationally (for professional or personal purposes) is an almost expected part of life for many in our globalised world. My research focuses on how the personal networks of relocating individuals change as well as how networks primarily made up of temporary members form.

A person who moves will have to update their pre-existing network, replacing some members but not others. Tracing these changes over time allows examining whether certain relationships are more robust than others and how the overall network composition is affected. When many previously unconnected people arrive in a new location simultaneously (as is the case for students starting university), we can further observe how former strangers become friends, and ultimately form a new community. 

Adjusting to life in a novel and unfamiliar environment can also be challenging. Identifying critical time periods during phases of transition (where feelings of loneliness are particularly high or mental well-being unusually low) is thus crucial to developing effective coping strategies. At the same time, facing a new environment can offer opportunities for contact with members of different social groups. If seized, such opportunities can lead to changes in attitude towards these out-groups and hence reduce biases.