Name: Youngki Hong
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Research Area: Social Psychology (SOC)
Research Specialty: Social Cognition, Intergroup Relations, Embodiment
I first moved to the United States in 2009 as a high school exchange student. My initial goal to learn English transformed into a love for the American culture and lifestyle—I didn’t want to leave! After moving to several different states in high school, I finally settled in as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, where I studied Psychology and Statistics. Since I was younger, I have always been fascinated by how people think and behave, which made my decision to study Psychology a no-brainer. Through my coursework I developed a strong interest in social psychology prompting me to pursue research opportunities. I worked in several labs studying topics in social cognition, perception, and health psychology. My research inspired me to develop my own projects related to social identity and prejudice. Delving into my thesis project made me realize how much there is to learn and inspired me to pursue an academic career in graduate school.
What is a typical day like for you?
My schedule varies each quarter, but I generally take classes, serve as a TA, conduct my own research projects, work out at the on-campus gym, and hangout on the beach. On weekends I spend time with friends (who are also in the PBS program) and catch up on unfinished assignments. Overall, my schedule is flexible, which makes it easier to manage all my schoolwork and research while maintaining my own social life.
What best prepared you for a PhD in Psychology? What did you do in your undergraduate career that prepared you to be a PhD student (lab work, teaching, research)?
As a college freshman, I attended a workshop on “how to apply for graduate school”, where I learned that professors want people who already behave like graduate students. Taking this advice, I started working as a research assistant my sophomore year, enrolled in graduate level courses, and pursued independent research opportunities. By the end of my senior year, I completed a couple of my own studies which helped me make a smooth transition into graduate school. In addition, I feel as though because of my training in Statistics, I am better able to understand and interpret not only my own research but also have insights for other people’s research, which is a critical skill set to have in graduate school.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
Don’t be afraid to learn new things! In addition to doing what you love the most (conducting research), you will need to learn things that you may have not been exposed to before, such as programming, advanced statistics, and interdisciplinary research. It may seem intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can be as fun as doing research!
Why did you choose UCSB?
Most importantly, I chose UCSB because of my advisor, whose work and vision perfectly matched my own research interests. I also liked the collaborative environment in the department. There are plenty of opportunities for collaboration not just within areas but across different areas as well. Of course, I’d be lying if beautiful weather and close distance to the beach did not contribute to my decision to come to UCSB.
What do you like about getting your PhD in Santa Barbara? What do you do in Santa Barbara in your (precious) spare time?
Having lived in Minnesota for four years, coming to Santa Barbara was a huge upgrade for me weather-wise. I like to go to the beach and spend time outside, and the weather is almost always perfect for that. There are also plenty of opportunities for fun in Santa Barbara; a few things I have tried so far include yoga, kickboxing, rock climbing, and wine tasting! In my spare time, I like to work out, watch TV shows and sports, cook, or just hang out with friends.
What are your future plans?
If the opportunities are given, I hope to stay in academia and become an academic researcher/professor in the US. However, the future is full of uncertainties, and I try to live in the moment for now.