We see professors every day and they teach us so that we can advance in the career we choose but rarely do we seek to understand how they advanced to where they are. I sat down and interviewed Professor Kurt Gray to understand that a bit more.
Kurt Gray has been working as a Social Psychology Professor at UNC for 3 years and before that he spent some time at Maryland University. He studies mind perception and morality. He has written several empirical works and is in the process of writing a book. Though Gray loves what he does now, doing social psychology research is not always what he envisioned himself doing. During his time in undergrad Gray started to head toward the track of Geo physics. Then one lone night in the artic, Gray had a light bulb moment. That light bulb moment entailed realizing that he thought “people are more interesting than rocks” (he doesn’t want to knock anyone who studies rocks). So, he decided to switch his major to psychology and he found social psychology interesting because it allowed him to ask big philosophical questions and get empirical answers.
Gray is on a tenure track position. Tenure track entails working as a professor at a university for 6 or so years and at the end of that time you are evaluated on three things: research (did you do any, did you publish), service (contributions made to the university), and teaching. When asked about lesson plan creation, Gray says that he doesn’t try to “reinvent the wheel.” He borrows ideas from those who have been doing this a long time but he also incorporates the research he examines. Gray says that he enjoys “teaching a little a lot.” He says that meaning that teaching one class a semester is ideal. However, his focus is research. His ability to continually come up with social psychology research ideas is fueled by reading and training himself to notice “the weird things people do.”
Gray is his own boss which he finds makes it harder to say no to work. In a way since he’s his own boss, his boss is always with him. He says he sometimes feels guilty for not working or taking time off because as the boss he know there is always something to be done. But all in all, Gray says that he is happy and that there is “nothing else I’d rather be doing”.