(Image by Michael Marsland)
Marvin Chun’s interest in psychology started in high school searching for self-help motivation. High school was very difficult for Chun, moving back to South Korea for his father’s job after being raised in California. Not only are Korean schools very different from (and harder than) American schools, Chun did not speak Korean at the time. One day he found an introductory psychology book lying around the house and began reading.
He became fascinated with the discipline and slowly discovered a love of math and quantitative, analytic methods. When he got to college at Yonsei University in South Korea, his sciency half and his interest in psychology combined into an academic career in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. He had his first tastes of research in methodology courses in undergrad, loving the thrill of making hypotheses, designing experiments, and analyzing data.
He graduated with a BA in psychology and continued researching in the Perception and Cognition group, receiving a MA in 1990. He continued pursuing this interest in graduate school in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT with Dr. Mary C. Potter, where he mostly focused on attention and what limits our ability to multitask. He also studied perception, how we can react to visual stimuli in the world as quickly and as accurately as possible and the relevant brain mechanisms.
Here, he also first taught other students as a teaching assistant. Enjoying both giving lectures and helping students through learning material, he found it natural to continue down the academic career trajectory to a professorship at Yale after NIH-funded postdoctoral studies in the Vision Sciences Laboratory at Harvard.
At Yale, Chun soon found himself teaching large courses and looking for an opportunity to get to know students on a deeper level. As he put it, “The level to which you get to know students outside of the classroom in your residential college is deeply inspiring and it’s one of the best jobs in academia.” He became the head of Berkeley college in 2007, a position that greatly exceeded his expectations, and, he thinks, helped prepare him for his current role as Dean. Here he learned more about students and the diverse ways they live up to the expectation that they will make the world a better place when they leave Yale as citizens and leaders.
In 2017, Chun was appointed Dean of Yale College, a position he still holds. He is also the Richard M. Colgate professor of Psychology, a leading researcher in the fields of vision and attention, a lecturer in introductory psychology courses at Yale, and a recipient of numerous awards for teaching excellence.