Letter from the Chair

Dear Psychology Community,

I hope everyone is doing well, staying safe, and taking care of themselves and each other. We all continue to get announcements and updates from the University - and you should all continue to monitor and follow those. I will not reiterate those messages here, but would like to briefly share some Department-specific updates.

Remote working. As Dean Gay announced last night, we must stop all in-person operations starting on Monday. This currently is expected to last at least 6-8 weeks. Research labs should wind down all operations no later than Wednesday (that means no more running subjects, the imaging facility has been closed, etc.). No experiment or analysis that any of us currently is running is considered essential University business (I know it doesn’t feel that way). All faculty, staff, students, post-docs, and others should work remotely to prevent in-person contact in WJH/NW. Take your (non-confidential) files home, grab your plants, and take whatever you need to work remotely. If you forget something and need to come back into the building after Wednesday - that is currently permissible, but please do not stay and/or congregate. Note: this does not mean stop doing research, teaching, and other work (!), it just means that we must temporarily do these things remotely. This will be different, but it also presents an opportunity to rethink the way we do our work and we should all explore how this might enhance the work we do and how we do it.

Some faculty and students with federal funding have raised questions about how this will impact those projects (given federal reporting requirements). Harvard is hammering this out and will provide guidance as we have it. In the meantime, the government has been releasing guidance giving researchers flexibility to pay research staff in ways not initially proposed, such as this. Thanks to Jennifer Perry for finding this and other guidance to reassure many of us about this. We will make this and related guidance available as we get/find it.

Teaching/Mentoring: Each instructor/TF is responsible for continuing their teaching and mentorship remotely. Lab meetings and brown bags should continue. Please get familiar with Zoom! Download it now and play with it over Spring Break. Set up meetings with your friends, students, advisors, etc. When the semester starts, all teaching should be done in Zoom via Canvas. Jill and Katie will continue to be the best resource for information about all things teaching/instruction related.

Graduate students: All graduate student courses and research also will continue as planned (e.g., dissertations, second year projects, etc.) - with the exception of clinical practica completed for course credit. Students on clinical internships should follow the local guidance at their hospital/site. Leah and Allie will continue to be the best resource for updates about graduate student life, some of which will be coming very shortly.

Moving forward. We are getting regular updates and information from the Deans’ offices and will share relevant and important information with all of you as we receive it. These changes affect all of the intersecting aspects of our work - and so we are having twice-weekly planning and coordination meetings of the chair/administrative office (Krista and I), graduate office (Leah & Allie), and undergraduate office (Jill & Katie) - with guidance as well from Randy about issues that will come up regarding NW/imaging/etc to make sure we are coordinated and responding to things as effectively and efficiently as possible. Please send any/all questions and suggestions to the appropriate office/person - and when in doubt, send to Krista and/or I.

Staying connected. One of the biggest challenges is going to be to stay connected with one another. We have plans to help do this, but also need your help.

  • If you have any barriers to working remotely, please tell your advisor, supervisor, or whoever you feel comfortable telling (I am always here) and we will do our best to address it.
  • We are going to purchase some computer cameras/mics for students or others who may need them - please let Allie know if you would like/need one.
  • We are going to start a community page on the Department website that will provide a means of sharing information (hopefully in a fun and engaging way) with the community, while also providing one-stop shopping for the resources you will need to navigate these changes (teaching, IRB/OSP, technology, etc.).
  • Krista is going to start some Teams channels to facilitate communication across various parts of the Department - please engage and have fun!
  • Finally, we are going to start a Department Innovation Fund to support community building initiatives and that we hope you will propose and create. More on this soon!

This will be a new way of interacting and doing our work and there will be significant challenges. Fortunately, we have the benefit of having some of the brightest and most creative minds in the world right here in our community – and we will be relying on your creativity, wisdom, and guidance in the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks and best wishes,


Matthew K. Nock, Ph.D.
Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology
Harvard College Professor (2019-2024)
Chair, Department of Psychology
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA