Chair's Message

The State of the Department


December 2019

What makes a psychology department successful?  This of course depends on the values of the university as a whole. The University of Chicago is a leading research institution, and our own Social Sciences Division is world-renowned for supporting intellectually intense graduate and undergraduate programs. As we enter 2020, I am pleased to write that the Department of Psychology continues to thrive in pursuit of these values. Our faculty and graduate students are incredibly productive, our undergraduate major continues to grow, and the size of our Department is expanding.

Our doctoral students accomplished a great deal this past year, with nine successfully defending their dissertations.  A defining feature of our program is the interdisciplinary nature of our research, and many students conduct research with multiple faculty. A list of student dissertations can be found on our website, and you can read about some of the latest graduate student research here, in our article on this year’s Norman H. Anderson awards. Our PhD students also have been very successful on the job market. A recent analysis showed that, over the past five years, a total of 71% of our students took faculty and postdoctoral positions at prestigious research institutions. The other 29% of our students were successful at landing research-oriented industry positions. This latter trend demonstrates a growing appreciation of the value of training in behavioral research outside the walls of academia. However, the Department is not resting on these laurels. We are currently thinking of additional ways to refine our graduate program, such as expanding our faculty mentoring practices even further, thereby providing students with even more guidance and opportunities to succeed.

This past year we also continued to mount a vibrant and growing undergraduate program. We saw a 25% increase in undergraduate enrollment in psychology courses, and 72 majors graduated. The size of our major continues to grow at a rate that cannot be fully accounted for by growth in the College student body, demonstrating the visibility of our major and psychological science more generally. 173 undergraduates were mentored in psychology laboratories this past year, and 12 students completed honors theses. These theses require an independent research project, thesis paper, and research presentation during our annual Honor’s Day celebration.This year's theses spanned across many areas of psychological science, and several projects involved collaborations outside of our department (e.g., Booth School of Business, Comparative Human Development, and Psychiatry). For a taste of the kinds of research our undergraduates have mounted, check out the projects of our Earl R. Franklin Fellows.

Of course, these kinds of metrics provide only a snapshot of our students’ achievements. For this year’s newsletter we continue our tradition of interviewing two alumni, one graduate and one undergraduate, to give even more insight into student experiences. We asked them about their experiences in the program, and how these experiences have shaped their career paths, and you can find these interviews here.  It is these kinds of success stories that keep us going.

In other news, I’m pleased to announce that we have made significant progress on the faculty expansion that I announced in last year’s newsletter. This past year we have made five new academic hires, thereby increasing our strength by about 25%. (Yes, we’ve been quite busy!)  The first new arrival was Dr. Katherine Kinzler, who started as an Assistant Professor in our Department and is now returning to our ranks after having served as Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at Cornell. You can read about Katie’s return here. We also welcomed two new assistant professors: Dr. Monica Rosenberg, who did her postdoctoral work and received her PhD from Yale, and Dr. Wilma Bainbridge, who received her PhD from MIT and was a postdoctoral fellow at NIH. You can read about Monica and Wilma’s research here.  The Department also was incredibly fortunate to be able to welcome Dr. Fan Yang as a Research Assistant Professor. Fan received her PhD at UPenn and did postdoctoral work at Yale, and you can read more about her work in her newly established Human Nature and Potentials Lab. Finally, Dr. Jai Yu will be joining us as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2020. Jai received his PhD from the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, and did postdoctoral work at UC San Francisco.  You can read more about Jai’s work here. We are absolutely thrilled to bring such world-class talent on board.

In closing, many of our faculty and students received significant honors this year. Some highlights include Alex Shaw, who was named a Jacobs Foundation Young Scholar, and Boaz Keysar, who was named the William Benton Professor in Psychology. We also congratulate Marc Berman and Greg Norman, who were promoted to Associate Professor with indefinite tenure. Kudos also goes to Carlos Cardenas-Iniguez, who was awarded a 2019 Campus Life and Student Leadership Award while a PhD student.  Carlos received his PhD last summer and is currently a Teaching Fellow in the Department. Carlos is a shining example of the central importance that our graduate students play in shaping the intellectual life and climate of the Department and University more generally, and we are lucky to have him.

We have much to be thankful for this year.  I wish you all a wonderful 2020, and I encourage you to stay connected with us and share your achievements. We are always grateful to hear from our departmental alumni and friends.

David A. Gallo

Professor and Chair