Christine Ma-Kellams

Assistant Professor,Christine Ma-Kellams

Christine Ma-Kellams was in middle school, the dutiful daughter of Asian parents studying hard and already thinking about the SAT test, when her father gave her a copy of Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence.” The book posits that the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and understand their effect on others is more important to success than intellectual ability. The book prompted her to begin to understand the role culture plays in how people think, feel and behave. “I loved the book,” Ma-Kellams says. “It transformed my life.” Understanding emotional intelligence didn’t cause Ma-Kellams to lighten up on her SAT prep, but it helped put her on the path toward a career spent examining the role social psychology plays in all aspects of life and society.
A new assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Ma-Kellams has a stable of published research papers on topics as diverse as whether science majors tend to be more liberal than those in the humanities or whether attractive men and women are less committed to marriage. Those relatable topics have also attracted media interest. The VICE headline on her attractiveness study was “Hot People Suck at Long Term Relationships,” and Ma-Kellams has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe. Born in China, Ma-Kellams moved around university towns in the U.S. as her father, a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry, found teaching positions. She settled in California and studied psychology and Spanish literature at UC Berkeley, then received her Ph.D. in social psychology from UC Santa Barbara and did a postdoc at Harvard until 2014. She most recently taught at University of La Verne in southern California. Settled now in the Bay Area with her family, Ma-Kellams is excited to teach at a school she calls “the most diverse campus I’ve ever been part of.”