Professor Chan discusses his interests and current projects

-3You may see him walking around campus, cleats in hand. He may have been down at the Athletic Center playing soccer, or you may have seen him walking in and out of West Quad, where he is a faculty resident.

Either way, you have definitely seen Assistant Professor of Economics Nathan Chan around campus; you just may not have known it because of his quiet demeanor. Chan is one of the youngest faculty members on campus and is not someone to overlook.

Chan has a number of degrees under his belt: he has BAs from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Yale University and Colombia University, as well as a Ph.D. in Environmental Economics from Yale University.

Though he studied Environmental Engineering as an undergraduate at Caltech, Chan found that policymakers weren’t appreciating his scientific findings. “After working in lab research for three or four years, I began to feel disillusioned by it,” he said. “I realized through deeper policy research that economics was another way of getting environmental policies implemented.”

During his Ph.D. work at Yale, Chan worked as a teaching assistant with other graduate students. At Yale, he realized that he loved teaching and giving students the tools they need to do their jobs successfully.

Throughout his time as a teaching assistant at Yale, Chan noticed that some of his best graduate students were those who had come from liberal arts colleges. Therefore, when he caught wind that Colby had an open position for an assistant professor, he  readily applied.

Chan began his travels in college, participating in numerous research and study abroad programs. Truly a citizen of the world, while studying abroad, he learned Danish while researching in Denmark. Other languages include Spanish and Bangla. His first language is Cantonese, which he learned in his Chinatown community in Houston, TX. It was only after moving to Austin at the age of 3 that Chan had to learn English.

Chan loves all kinds of music, from Rage Against the Machine to Motown. He has travelled to over 30 countries, and when asked about his favorite place, he pondered for a moment before asking, “Can I give you my top five?”

This response is simply representative of the fact that Chan is not the type of person to limit himself. He is someone who seizes opportunities and searches out creative ways to do what he wants in life.

Chan’s interest in the environment began when he was a sophomore in high school, and a friend of his, already graduated from the school, decided to live in a tree in the Pacific Northwest for the summer in order to prevent its destruction. Since then, the professor has been blazing a new path.

Currently, Chan is working on a variety of projects, including four papers that are in progress. “I am mostly interested in understanding consumer behavior and how that affects societal incentives and outcomes. If I had to package all of my work into one simple idea, it would surround the question of when an individual’s best interests don’t align with society’s.”

Chan has focused on how individuals want to contribute to green movements and want to move towards being environmentally friendly, but their best interests don’t allow them to go as far as they could. “Everybody wants to reduce pollution, but we also all want to drive our cars.”

Chan is someone that Colby is lucky to have as a faculty member. He is passionate, devoted and is actively working to make a better world. His insights and experiences only add to his ability to provide students with meaningful direction in class.

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