Tobias Wolfram

Tobias Wolfram

PhD Candidate

University of Bielefeld/CREST-ENSAE

Biography

I am a PhD-candidate in sociology at University of Bielefeld and affiliated with CREST-ENSAE as well as the awesome people at Social Science Genetics Paris. My research interests mostly concern the intersection of social science, differential psychology and genetics. The pathways that lead from the genome, through cognitive and non-cognitive traits, ultimately to the stratification of society, never cease to amaze and captivate me.

Before commencing my PhD I worked three years as a data scientist and statistician for Civey, a German startup, where I still consult part time. I owe to this job a fascination for the possibilities and potentials of data science and machine learning in the social sciences that goes beyond my other research interests.

In my spare time I am involved with various projects relating to the ideas of Evolutionary Humanism and Effective Altruism.

Download my CV.

Interests
  • Genomics
  • Intelligence
  • Social Stratification
  • Computational Social Science/Machine Learning
Education
  • PhD in Sociogenomics, since 2021

    University of Bielefeld/CREST-ENSAE (Paris)

  • MSc Statistics, 2018

    Technical University/Free University/Humboldt University (Berlin)

  • BA Social Science, 2015

    Humboldt University (Berlin)

Research

Understanding the emergence of social inequality was the motivation for my decision to study sociology. However, over time I more and more realized that this subject matter cannot be understood in isolation from neighboring disciplines: An individual’s psychological traits, in particular intelligence, strongly affect his decisions and opportunities in live. They emerge from genetic code, and their development and ultimate expression interacts with the environment in multiple ways to determine the individual’s position in the social fabric. The investigation of this interplay, of genome, psychology and social status, is the main interest of my dissertation that I am currently pursuing under the supervision of Prof. Martin Diewald at Bielefeld University and Prof. Felix Tropf at CREST-ENSAE.

For this, I draw on classical approaches of quantitative genetics (especially twin studies) as well as on modern, genotyped data sources and analyze various dimensions of socioeconomic status (educational attainment, occupational status and income) using methods from statistics and machine learning. I presented a draft of my first paper on the heritability of educational attainment at Social Science Genetics Paris as well as at the meeting of the Behavior Genetics Association 2021 and gave a talk about my second paper at IGSS in late October 2021.

Feel free to drop me a message if you want to collaborate on anything related to genomics, intelligence, social stratification, computational social science/machine learning and (due to my day job) survey statistics.

Data Science

The early 2010s were dominated by a never-ending staccato of increasingly impressive innovations in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning, which also left its mark on me, as a humble student of sociology: The prospect of better understanding and modelling social processes through new mathematical methods, advances in the field of natural language processing and the gigantic amounts of data on the modern internet led me via lectures in computer science, countless Coursera courses and an exchange semester at Stanford down a rabbit hole that finally culminated in a Master’s degree in statistics.

After graduating, I worked first as a Data Scientist, and since 2019 as Lead Statistician (now part time) for Civey, a polling startup whose vision of making it’s data transparently accessible to respondents excited me from the start. Today, Civey is the leading company for digital market and opinion data with the largest panel in Germany. My work repeatedly confronts me with formidable problems at the intersection of survey statistics, applied survey research and machine learning. Core aspects of our approach can be found in our whitepaper.

I particularly appreciate the position for its proximity to academic research: As Lead Statistician, I presented internal research at conferences of the DGOF, GESIS and AAPOR. Furthermore, I supervised several theses and currently coordinate the cooperation with academic partners, such as the Chair of Applied Statistics at the Free University of Berlin, the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) and the survey statistics department at the University of Bamberg, with whom we are pursuing various cooperation projects related to online non-probability sampling.

Personal Projects

There is no justice in the laws of nature, no term for fairness in the equations of motion. The Universe is neither evil, nor good, it simply does not care. The stars don’t care, or the Sun, or the sky. But they don’t have to! WE care! There IS light in the world, and it is US!

HPMOR, Chapter 39

Civilisation in all its facets represents a fragile miracle, a flickering glow of light in eternal darkness, whose defense and advancement is the ultimate moral imperative. The courage, ingenuity and constant striving for mastery of nature over thousands of generations of our ancestors form the basis of our unprecedented prosperity on a historical and evolutionary scale. It is our responsibility to become part of this noble tradition and to do everything in our power to ensure the long-term flourishing of our species and all sentient life. The key to this is science and rationality.

Based on this motivation, I am committed to the ideas of Evolutionary Humanism in the tradition of UNESCO founder Julian Huxley and the values of Effective Altruism. In my student days, this resulted in the founding of the Humanist University Group of Berlin and Effective Altruism Berlin. Since 2019, I have been coordinating all university groups of the evolutionary humanist Giordano-Bruno-Foundation in German-speaking countries. In 2020, I published a short book on the challenges of rational debate and the value of freedom of speech, and in 2021 I organized an essay competition on the importance of rationality in contemporary discourse. In addition, as chair of the Federal Working Group of Humanist Students, I am co-founder of the Bertha von Suttner-Studienwerk, which was created in 2021 and will provide financial and non-material scholarships for humanist students and doctoral students from the winter semester of 2021/22 onward.

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