Graduate Student Profile: Won-tak Joo

Name: Won-tak Joo

Department: PhD Student, Sociology

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Educational background: BA and MA in Sociology, Yonsei University

Can you describe your research interests? Current research projects and/dissertation?

My research interests are in the areas of aging, health, family, and social networks. Specifically, I study how social relationships evolve in the context of aging, and how these patterns matter for individual and social outcomes, using social network methods and applied econometrics.

My current projects explore 1) the socioeconomic differences in social network changes during later life transitions (e.g., disease diagnosis, retirement), and 2) the individual and family consequences of epidemics using large genealogy datasets.

How did you get into your field of research?

When I was an MA student, I participated in a project to study social networks and health of older adults in South Korea. While interviewing older adults in a rural village for several years, I found it difficult to describe their lives with simple survey questions, and simultaneously got interested in various research methods for better analyzing later life trajectories. These experiences led me to seriously think about research questions in the field of aging and health.

What attracted you to UW–Madison?

Before coming to the U.S., I was already familiar with CDHA/CDE and faculty members specializing in aging and health in UW–Madison. It was lucky to come to this place and work with researchers I knew only through journal articles.

What’s one thing you hope people who are exposed to your research will come away with?

The world’s population is aging, but its patterns are not uniform. I want people to better understand the dynamics and implications of these heterogeneous aging trajectories while reading my work.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.

Population aging is not only about an increased proportion of older adults in society, but also about a changing relationship among older adults, their family members, and other surrounding people. I believe that my research can help policymakers better understand why and how aging matters for the family economy and informal care system through these shifting social networks.

Hobbies/other interests: Movies, comics, swimming.