Date(s) - 02/03/2022
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Please use this zoom link for the event.

Please join us for a UW Data Science Seminar event on Thursday, February 3rd from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. featuring Karen Chen, Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of the Environment at Yale University.

“From pixels to people: 3-D urban form and mental well-being”

Abstract: Global urban expansion and urban form have important consequences for human life and health. Not only does urban expansion influence the climate, air quality, and natural hazards, but the built environment and land use also shape people’s daily experiences and mental well-being. To ask these pressing questions, novel methods are necessary. Previous research on the role of the built environment on mental health required expensive survey data, but the high cost of these methods severely limited their applicability across cities. Here, I will present an approach that leverages free satellite imagery and deep learning to yield high-resolution data on the form of cities over time. This new method allows us to study the relationship between urban form and depressive disorders. Using 3.7 million residents in Denmark as a case study, we found results contrary to previous findings: living in dense inner-city areas did not carry higher mental health risks than living in rural areas. Rather, we observed that life in mid- and high-rise buildings in large open spaces were the happiest, where the highest risks were found in one- or two-story environments in the urban peripheries. The results suggest that urban sprawl can negatively affect public mental health, but also that good spatial planning can alleviate some of this burden.

Biography: Karen Chen is a Donnelley postdoctoral associate at the Yale School of the Environment. Her research interest is at the intersection of geospatial data science, urban environment, and health inequality. During her Ph.D. in the Big Data Centre of Environment and Health at Aarhus University (2017-2020), she worked on an interdisciplinary project on the relationship between dynamic urban form and mental health inequality. This work was complemented by a research exchange at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in 2019, where she collaborated on the development of deep learning and remote sensing methods. In 2020, she was a visiting researcher and a lecturer at the University of Copenhagen where she co-taught Remote Sensing in Land System Science. At Yale, she focuses on open data science for urbanization studies in the Global South, including sustainable development in the Himalayas and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The UW Data Science Seminar is an annual lecture series at the University of Washington that hosts scholars working across applied areas of data science, such as the sciences, engineering, humanities and arts along with methodological areas in data science, such as computer science, applied math and statistics. Our presenters come from all domain fields and include occasional external speakers from regional partners, governmental agencies and industry.

The 2021-2022 seminars will be virtual events, and are free and open to the public.