Chair's Message

The State of the Department


December 2018

In this Chair’s Update, I highlight some exciting developments in the Department of Psychology, including an ambitious plan for faculty expansion as well as departmental achievements. But first I wish to convey how honored I am to start my term as chair of the Department, a position first held by James Rowland Angell in 1905, one of my academic “great grandparents,” and by many influential faculty since. I am particularly fortunate to be following in the footsteps of our last chair, Susan Levine, who recently received the honor of being elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Having served as associate chair for the past three years, I have seen first-hand Susan’s leadership and commitment to our Department. Such commitment from our faculty helps to ensure our Department remains one of the best, and indeed, in the recently released 2019 Times Higher Education rankings of psychology departments, ours was ranked fourth in the world! Though such rankings have limitations, I believe this recognition reflects our Department’s enduring qualities along the primary metrics used by the Times: Research reputation, research impact, and teaching environment.

One of the biggest pieces of news is that we have launched the most ambitious round of faculty hiring in recent history. Our hiring plan was informed by a faculty retreat held last spring during which we had an engaging and collegial discussion of the state of psychological science and the Department. One goal of the hiring plan is to rebuild our strength in social psychology, a pressing need especially with the passing of our esteemed colleague John Cacioppo. The other goal of the hiring plan is to increase our strength in other areas of psychological science, including our current strengths within developmental, cognitive, and neuroscience. Hopefully we will make multiple hires to advance our research and teaching over the next two years, so stay tuned for more developments.

With respect to new hires, I am pleased to announce that Monica Rosenberg, who received her PhD from Yale in 2017, will join our faculty next year. Monica does cutting-edge cognitive neuroscience research, using patterns of functional connectivity in fMRI brain activity data to explore individual differences in sustained attention and other important psychological characteristics. Most recently, as part of her postdoctoral position, she is applying these techniques to shed new light on developmental questions, such as the nature of developmental disorders. Monica’s research clearly spans many different research areas within our Department, and we are eager to bring her on board.

I also am happy to share that the Department hired a new lecturer, Kerry LeDoux, this past year. Kerry received her PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Among other courses, Kerry teaches “Topics in Behavioral and Social Sciences Relevant to Medicine,” which emphasizes the critical relevance of the social sciences and psychology to modern day medical training and practice. Kerry also contributes to the incredibly popular College core course Mind, an undergraduate course focused on small intensive discussion sections in which most of our Psychology faculty and many of our graduate students also teach.

In other news, we had another terrific year recruiting top students to our doctoral program, welcoming 14 new PhD students to the Department this past fall. Seventeen of our students defended their dissertations between the Summer of 2017 and Spring of 2018. Our students continue to be very active in the field: they were authors on sixty papers between 2017 and 2018 and presented at numerous domestic and international conferences. To support this work, many of our students received Norman H. Anderson awards made possible by a generous alumnus gift. You can read more about these student projects in our newsletter.

We also had another wonderful year for our undergraduate program. The Department’s Undergraduate Research Initiative Program (URIP), directed by Anne Henly, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and the College, continues to be a resounding success in helping undergraduates pursue enriching research experiences in our labs and associated areas of professional development. Last year we had 19 undergraduates complete honors projects in faculty labs. In fact, several of our undergraduates received funding to conduct summer research projects with the generous support of the Earl R. Franklin fellowships and the Montgomery fellowship. You can read about these projects in our newsletter. Also in our newsletter you can read about some of the contributions of Professor Boaz Keysar to our undergraduate program, as Boaz was a 2018 recipient of the prestigious Quantrell Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

In addition to these and other stories in our newsletter, I encourage you to read about our alumni. This year we have stories from Emily Cooper (BA, 2007) and Steve Gray (PhD, 2016), who are currently making their mark in academia (University of California, Berkeley) and industry (Facebook), respectively. It is wonderful to see the successes of our undergraduate and graduate alumni across different sectors, and I encourage our alumni to reach out to us and let us know your own stories.

In closing, I wish you all a wonderful 2019, and I encourage you to stay connected with us and share your achievements. One of my goals as chair is to encourage our faculty, students, and alumni to take stock of the collective strengths of our Department and to think of the institutional steps we can take to advance our scientific and educational mission. We are always grateful to hear from our departmental alumni and friends.

David A. Gallo
Professor and Chair