Automated Web Profiles for Faculty and Researchers

Jan 5, 2021

At the Harvard School of Public Health there are over 1,500 people that fall into the category of "Faculty and Researchers". These individuals are responsible for the teaching and research that is at the core of the school's mission, and thus have historically each been given their own website to discuss their work, provide contact information, link to other affiliations they have, and otherwise publish any information they want to provide to the general public.

When I joined Harvard in 2019 as a Senior Web and Application developer it was already a foregone conclusion that this paradigm was not scaling well, was too decentralized and difficult to manage, and needed to be replaced. Thus my first major project on the Web and Applications team was to build automated web profils for faculty and researches, or as we call them "Academic Profiles".

The Academic Profiles backend was built with Php as a plugin for WordPress multisite network. Profile data is pulled nightly from multiple Harvard APIs into a database. This data includes affiliations at Harvard and elsewhere, a profile photo, contact information, publications, news articles in which the person is tagged, educational background, and awards and honors. All of this is presented to the general public in much more user friendly way than the non-standardized system that existed previously. Having this information always up-to-date and easily accessible to the public during the pandemic was a big win for the school as people are increasingly turning to us for reliable public health information.

Academic Profiles can be viewed here:

The Academic Profile of Michelle Williams The front page of the Academic Profiles site A simple diagram of where Academic Profiles data comes from