Originally published in Forbes by Aline Holzwarth

Behavioral science is increasingly being applied outside university laboratories to industry settings, making an impact in the real world. I had the opportunity to interview ten leaders paving the path for applied behavioral science, and have compiled them here.

These ten behavioral scientists are shining examples of impact in health, their work spanning from experimentation to implementation. From Katy Milkman’s massive tests to increase vaccination rates to Neela Saldanha’s efforts to alleviate global poverty, these leading behavioral scientists are making the change they want to see in the world.

On top of their impressive work, these behavioral scientists are interesting people! In their interviews, they share insights that go beyond their research, from random “fun facts” to the fiction book they would recommend to researchers and innovators in healthcare.

1. Laurie Santos

Laurie Santos is an expert on human cognition and the cognitive biases that impede better choices. Her Science of Well-Being program has helped millions of people use science to improve their lives. Dr. Santos is a Professor of Psychology at Yale. Read her full interview here.

2. Alison Buttenheim

Alison Buttenheim combines her interest in behavioral economics with a focus on improving child health on a global level. Her work provides new insights to help parents make better choices for their children, and to improve take-up of evidence-based preventive services. Dr. Buttenheim is a public health researcher and behavioral epidemiologist with a host of appointments at the University of Pennsylvania. Read her full interview here.

3. Amy Bucher

Amy Bucher helps people change behavior to achieve their personal goals, especially related to health, wellness, learning, and financial well-being. Her research includes motivational design, patient and user engagement, happiness, how social relationships influence health and well-being, and cross-cultural behavior change strategies. Dr. Bucher is Vice President of Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow. Read her full interview here.

4. Katy Milkman 

Katy Milkman takes insights from economics and psychology to change consequential behaviors for good, such as savings, exercise, vaccination take-up and discrimination prevention. Dr. Milkman is a Professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Read her full interview here.

5. Dori Steinberg

Dori Steinberg designs digital health interventions for dietary change, and chronic disease management among adults using principles from intuitive eating. Dr. Steinberg is an Associate Professor in the Duke School of Nursing and the Duke Global Health Institute. Read her full interview here.

6. Ingrid Melvær Paulin

Ingrid Melvær Paulin applies behavioral science to the design of products and experiences that improve and simplify health care. Her digital health product designs make patients and their care teams more connected, help patients be more adherent to their treatment plans, know what to expect, and when to look out for warning signs. Ingrid Melvær Paulin is a Senior Behavioral Scientist at Rally Health. Read her full interview here.

7. Cynthia Castro Sweet

Cynthia Castro Sweet directs a program of research studies to validate the clinical and economic benefit of Omada Health’s disease prevention and self-management programs. She designs technology-enabled solutions that make integrated healthcare more feasible and accessible. Dr. Castro Sweet is Senior Director of Clinical Research & Policy at Omada Health. Read her full interview here.

8. Gina Merchant

Gina Merchant specializes in digital health product development, research and strategy. She is an expert on deriving actionable insights from real-world data across behavioral domains including physical activity, sleep, and therapy adherence. Dr. Merchant is a behavioral scientist working as a consultant to the health tech industry. Read her full interview here.

9. Neela Saldanha

Neela Saldanha designs and tests behavioral interventions across the globe on challenging problems of poverty alleviation, public health, financial inclusion and charitable giving. She is an advocate of researching the Global South, which has 80% of the world’s population and yet most of what we know about human behavior comes from research in the Global North. Dr. Saldanha works as an independent consultant to a diverse array of organizations. Read her full interview here.

10. Christina Gravert

Christina Gravert studies how people make decisions and how they can be motivated or nudged to “do the right thing” in environmental sustainability, health and charitable giving. She aspires to increase the welfare of individuals and society through behavioral insights and evidence-based decision making. Dr. Gravert is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen and Co-Founder of Impactually. Read her full interview here.


The observant reader may have noticed that these ten behavioral scientists are all women. And that might be surprising since the leaders featured in the mainstream overwhelmingly tend to be male. In fact, women make up 70% of the field of behavioral science, but rarely get the recognition they deserve. It’s important to highlight the full range of leaders doing great work, especially those who are traditionally underrepresented in the headlines. If you know a thought leader in research and healthcare who should be interviewed, please put them in touch with me!

Written by: Aline Holzwarth