#MasonCOMM Faculty, Sojung Kim, Does Cutting Edge Research with Eye Tracking Technology

by Catherine Wright

#MasonCOMM Faculty, Sojung Kim, Does Cutting Edge Research with Eye Tracking Technology

Sojung Kim is the faculty director for Mason’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA ), a researcher of health communication, a director of the Communication, Health, and Relational Media (CHARM) lab, and a dedicated faculty member to both undergraduate and graduate students.  Today we’ll learn more about who she is and her research interests.

Kim earned a double major in both Journalism and Mass Communication and in Education from Korea University in Seoul, Korea where she also received a teacher certificate in teaching Ethics.  She came to the United States, earned her MA in Telecommunication from Indiana University-Bloomington, and received a PhD in Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  After graduation, Kim completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), managing and working on a NIH-funded multi-year health communication project.

“Since a young age,” Kim stated, “I was naturally drawn to investigative journalism, social justice, and news reporting.  My interest and passion for the social betterment made me read lots of books related to these areas and directed me to pursue careers in the journalism and communication field.”  This led her to study Health Communication at the graduate level, primarily through the lens of media.  Currently, she studies different ways to correct health misinformation on social media by using eye tracking technology.  Studies done this way have participants sit in front of a computer screen with an eye tracker that monitors how a person’s eyes move and what they view when they are exposed to visual stimuli.  The visual stimuli can be any types of messages: for example, Kim has had participants view items varied from the FDA’s cessation campaign messages to misinformation correction postings on social media (e.g., tweets, FB messages).  She hopes this research will contribute to developing effective message/intervention design strategies to reduce misinformation and to promote healthy behaviors. 

So far, Kim has published 27 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.  She stated that her “research interests lie on intersections of interactive media, health communication, and strategic messaging.”  The topical focus of her research is on “challenging health and environmental issues such as cancer, vaccination, addiction, and climate change”.  She also implements a variety of ways to discover information and said, “I use different research methodologies to explore interesting yet unanswered research questions in these areas.” 

While very proud of all her research, Kim is most proud of a recent article that stemmed from her PhD dissertation. In that article, she examined the psychosocial processes of breast cancer patients who have used an e-health intervention system and their impacts on improving the overall quality of life.  She hopes this publication will encourage future scholars to study similar questions, and also contribute to theory-based, empirically-driven health intervention design and development.

When not researching, Kim teaches several Public Relations (PR) courses at the undergraduate level.  She enjoys working with undergraduate students who are just learning what PR is all about.  She loves teaching an introductory PR course because she said, “it is a gateway course to Public Relations, so in this course, I always strive to introduce the course materials to students in a fun and engaging way.”  She also teaches a PR Campaigns where she guides students as they produce real-life campaigns for local organizations as a campaign client.  This course is a group participation heavy class, and she admits that like most faculty, she struggles with “managing free riders with team projects.”

At the graduate level, Kim teaches Graduate Research Methodologies, Risk Communication, and Health Communication.  She realizes that the research methodologies “is a tough course to take if students don't have any prior knowledge in research methods, so I always make sure I provide relevant examples and in-class exercises for students to get familiar with new concepts.”  No matter what level she teaches, Kim says her favorite things about teaching are the “interactions with students and witnessing their a-ha moments in learning!”

Kim is very busy with many projects within the department and university.  She is the PR concentration coordinator making sure that the program we offer creates a foundation in PR that students will be able to use upon graduation.  She manages course scheduling and instructor assignments every semester for this concentration.  Kim is also a faculty advisor for the PRSSA Chapter and a co-advisor for the National Society of the Collegial Scholars Chapter at Mason.  She is affiliated with the Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) and the Center for Health and Risk Communication, too. 

Outside of the classroom, she is a mother to a very active 33-month-old son and laughs, saying, “basically, I do not have any free time for myself for now.” Kim finds great delight in caring for and playing with her son, finding it offers her a creative outlet that extends into her classroom teaching. 

When Kim first arrived at Mason in the Fall of 2017, one of the things she noticed, as do so many, is “the very diverse student body” and our “faculty's passion and true care for student success.”  She truly cares for students too and gives this advice for all graduating students:  “Make a plan, write it down, and try to reward yourself with small successes!  Do not strive for perfection (there is no such thing in life!) and focus on bettering yourself (not comparing to others).  Finally, it will be helpful if you have a hobby that makes you relax or get your mind off from work when needed.”

#MasonCOMM is so happy to have Kim as part of the department, and she feels the same. Her research is essential to understanding strategic health communication messaging and misinformation correction in the digital media landscape and her students are very fond of her.  Sharing her love of #MasonCOMM, Kim said “I would like to thank my MasonCOMM colleagues and all students for giving me the opportunity to contribute to student learning and betterment.  It truly is an honor, and it helps me grow into a better person too!”