Leadership Team


Daniel T. O'Brien, Director

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University


Dan O’Brien is associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, and co-director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. His work focuses on the ways that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners can work together to leverage modern digital data (i.e., “Big Data”) to better understand and serve cities. His own work focuses on the behavioral and social dynamics of urban neighborhoods, particularly those that directly impact a place’s future upward (or downward) trajectory.

Christopher Winship, Founding Director

Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University


Christopher Winship is the Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University and a member of the senior faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is a faculty associate of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, the Program in Criminal Justice, the Ph.D. Program in Organizational Behavior, the Center for Public Leadership, the Safra Center for Ethics, and the Program in Social Inequality. He is past chair of both the Departments of Sociology at Harvard and Northwestern University.

Robert J. Sampson, Founding Director

Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University


Robert J. Sampson is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and Founding Director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. A former President of the American Society of Criminology, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

Nancy E. Hill, Director of Research on Education

Charles Bigelow Professor of Education, Harvard University


Professor Hill is a developmental psychologist whose research focuses on understanding that mechanisms that impact youths’ opportunities for upward mobility and successful postsecondary transitions. Her research has focused on parental choice and parental involvement in education, school-based supportive relationships for promoting positive postsecondary transitions, and the ways race, socioeconomic status, and community context interact to impact students’ broad academic outcomes. She focuses on the ways in which school districts and researchers can work collaboratively through research-practice partnerships to apply research to solve pressing problems facing individual school districts, while generating knowledge that can benefit school districts across the nation.

Qi "Ryan" Wang, Associate Research Director on Social Media

Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University


Ryan Qi Wang is assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University, and faculty affiliate of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. He studies the interplay between urban informatics and urban, infrastructure, and social resilience. His research focuses on two interrelated areas: human movement perturbation under the influence of natural and manmade disasters (collaborating with UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech), and geosocial networks in big cities (collaborating with Harvard University).


Will Pfeffer

Program Coordinator, Boston Area Research Initiative


Will Pfeffer is the Boston Area Research Initiative's Program Coordinator, working with BARI's directors and research team to do community outreach and trainings, communications, events, and more. Prior to joining BARI, Will worked at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School, at the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and at Obama for America (2012). Will is originally from Boulder, CO, and holds a BA in Political Science and International Affairs from the University of Colorado.