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Professor Profile

Conrad finds his niche

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 21:11

The Justice’s professor profile series aims to show Brandeis professors as people outside of the classroom. In the latest installment, justNews interviewed Prof. Peter Conrad (HSSP).

Peter Conrad, Harry Coplan Professor of Social Sciences and Chair of the Health: Science, Society and Policy program, is more than just a medical sociologist.

The New York native wasn’t always interested in sociology, but in his sophomore year at SUNY Buffalo, he realized that his business major just wasn’t his calling. At the time, Conrad had been taking “Intro to Sociology,” and as he puts it, he “was saved.”

“I finally found a discipline that asked the kinds of question I was interested in. I went to the university bookstore and went to the sociology section and there were a bunch of books I wanted to read anyway.”

After getting his Bachelor of Arts at Buffalo, Conrad continued his sociology education at Northeastern University where he received his Masters degree, and he went on to obtain a Ph.D. at Boston University.

When asked what he likes to do outside of work, Conrad responded, “I like to go to the movies. I work in my garden; I have a big garden at home, and I love my garden. I also ride my bike, and I like to travel.”

Conrad has taken two sabbatical years in his 33 years at Brandeis.

His first sabbatical was from 1989 to 1990 in Indonesia. Conrad discussed that in his career as a medical sociologist, he studies aspects of health and illness.

He went on to explain that to be broadly based in his own field, he has to do field research in a different culture and in a different country.

Conrad’s other sabbatical was in London, where twice a week he flew to Northern Ireland to consult and teach. He now returns to Ireland for one week each year.

Libby, Conrad’s wife, is an emergency room doctor and plays an important part in his life as a medical sociologist, he said.

“We are interested in some of the same issues; she from a medical point of view, and me from a sociological point of view. We help to hone each other’s views because of our two different perspectives.”

Conrad’s “SOC 191A: Health, Community, and Society” class has been important at Brandeis and is one of the keystone courses for HSSP.

Conrad finished the interview by talking about what he finds most valuable about being a professor. “I can do all of the things I like to do. I like being around young people, I like to write and research. I love teaching. There is also a certain amount of flexibility. I can be here three days a week, and go home the other two and do my research. If I get tired of a course, or get into a new area of interest, I can shape a course around it. It’s really a great career.”

—Danielle Gross 

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