Festschrift Honors Career, Contributions of Lawrence Marks

A prestigious group of scholars gathered at the Yale School of Public Health on April 5 to honor the career of Lawrence Marks, professor emeritus and senior research scientist in Environmental Health Sciences. After more than five decades, Marks is retiring from the Yale School of Public Health and the John B. Pierce Laboratory, where he is both director and fellow emeritus. 

Marks, PhD, came to New Haven in 1966 as a founding member of the Pierce Lab’s psychophysics group. In his 51-year career, he authored two influential books, 30 book chapters and 150 peer-reviewed papers. His first book, Sensory Processes (1974) was a scholarly primer on what was then known as the New Psychophysics and the significant contributions it was making to understanding how human senses and perception influence decision making. The Unity of the Sense (1978) was an intellectual and scientific tour de force, which delved into the theory and principles of multisensory interactions, their role in human perception, and their influence on philosophy, cognition, and language.

Marks held dual appointments at the Yale School of Public Health and the Pierce Lab where he became a fellow and served as director from 1999 to 2009. Originally trained as a cognitive psychologist specializing in language, Marks has devoted most of his scientific career to elucidating human sensory and perceptual processes, including mechanisms of multisensory integration and interactions of sensory with cognitive processes in the coding and representation of perceptual information. 

My definition of a scholar is Larry Marks.

Sten Vermund

His work has influenced research in many areas relating to health, including post-traumatic stress disorders, how people respond to their physical environments, such as office buildings, diet, and pain.

“My definition of a scholar is Larry Marks,” Dean Sten Vermund told the gathering in Winslow Auditorium. “He leaves a legacy not only in the Pierce lab, but he has passed the baton to the next generation of leaders that are now leading research programs around the world.” Several of Marks’ former mentees spoke about their work and how Marks influenced their research, development of models, and writing. They included Brian Leaderer, MPH, PhD (Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health and fellow, Pierce Laboratory); Barry Green, PhD (fellow, Pierce Laboratory and professor, Department of Surgery, Yale School of Medicine); Maria Veldhuizen, PhD (associate research scientist, Pierce Laboratory and Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine); Robert Melara, PhD (professor and chair of psychology, City College, City University of New York); Daniel Algom, PhD (professor emeritus, The School of Psychological Sciences, Tel-Aviv University).

 Marks said that he did not set out to åbe a mentor, but that as he was winding down his research he realized mentoring is what he would miss the most. He began working with high school students several years ago and encouraged people in the audience to do the same.

“There are lots of young people desperate to find mentors,” Marks said.  “They may not become scientists, but they will get something out of it.”


This article was submitted by Denise Meyer on April 9, 2018.

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Sten H. Vermund

Dean and Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health