Kevin Hsu, Ph.D.
Occupation: Assistant Professor of Psychology at Penn State University - Abington
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
The Sex in My Business: I teach about and conduct research on many diverse issues related to sexual orientation and sexuality. The overall goal of my work is to help expand our understanding of sexual orientation and educate people about it, particularly so that those who don't fit neatly into the conventional framework of heterosexual, gay, or bisexual are better understood and treated in our society.
A Typical Day: I just completed my doctorate, and so I’m still getting settled into my new workflow at Penn State - Abington. However, during graduate school, my typical workday started with answering as many emails as I could handle. Next, I prepared for any classes that I was scheduled to teach and/or meetings that I had to attend that day. After my classes and meetings, I usually took a break and then worked on my research, which could have involved designing experiments and surveys, leading recruitment efforts, running participants, analyzing data, writing and editing papers, or anything else in between. On a typical workday, there were usually also administrative issues to handle related to my teaching or research. I would say that I was almost always at a different place in my courses and research projects every day, so my workdays were never that typical! I fully expect a very similar kind of work schedule once I get settled into my new position.
The Best Part: My favorite part of being a graduate student (and I expect also an Assistant Professor) is the incredible freedom and opportunity to pursue teaching and research in the areas where I'm most passionate. In my case, these areas happen to be related to sex! I especially love getting to share what I've learned about sexuality to students, colleagues, and the public.
The Worst Part: My least favorite part of being a graduate student was the isolation that comes with certain aspects of the research process, especially writing and editing papers. It can also be hard to stay accountable at times, because research deadlines are often nebulous. I hope to turn things around some as I start my new position!
How I Got Here: When I first got to college, I was interested in biology—specifically, behavior genetics. I took an intro psychology course for fun and fell in love with that subject too, so then I began looking for a research lab to join that would merge my two interests. Luckily, I found Dr. Michael Bailey, who had previously studied the behavior genetics of sexual orientation, and was then studying the sexual arousal patterns of bisexual women and men. I decided to work in his lab instead of a lab studying the Circadian rhythms of fruit flies, and the rest is history.
What Society Thinks: Because I was getting my Ph.D. in clinical psychology (and not sexuality), and I am now an Assistant Professor of Psychology, I have received only positive responses from family, friends, and others in this regard. However, once I begin discussing the nature of my work and that I teach and study sexuality, responses become much more varied. Some people think my work is fascinating and important, while others think it is strange or unnecessary, and still others try to avoid discussing it altogether. I have gotten used to people’s discomfort with my work because of its focus on sex. The negative attitudes can be discouraging, but I understand and expect them now. It is unfortunate that sex remains a stigmatized or taboo subject in many social circles (including some of my own), but I hope that my work will help in this regard. The positive responses, on the other hand, make me feel like what I'm doing is valuable and worthwhile. They are definitely a strong motivation to keep teaching about and studying otherwise unconventional topics in sexuality.
When I’m not at Work: I love to write and play music. Living in Chicago (which is where I completed my degree), I was lucky to be a guitarist and vocalist in a local rock band for several years. I love supporting local bands, artists, and comedy, and I hope to join another band and be a part of the live music, art, and comedy scene in Philadelphia, too. My other hobbies include watching movies or TV, reading, exploring the city, and traveling.