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Faculty member you should know: Jennifer Jhun

She’s inspired by graphic novels when creating handouts for her philosophy classes, has two dogs, and lives on campus. Jennifer Jhun is the newest faculty member in the Department of Philosophy.

The assistant professor of philosophy completed her undergraduate work at Northwestern University, where she double majored in economics and philosophy, thinking she wanted to go to law school but decided to get her PhD in philosophy instead.

She spent eight years at the University of Pittsburgh. Luckily for Jhun, she landed the job at Lake Forest College, where she started teaching classes in the fall of 2016.

Jhun taught Social Justice vs. Freedom? last fall and is teaching two classes—Logic and Philosophy of Science—this semester. “My particular specialization is in the history and philosophy of economics,” she said. “Many of my interests carried over from college.”

This native of Oklahoma is a Forester faculty member you should know. 

Q: Why did you want to come to Lake Forest College?

A: “I did my undergrad at Northwestern and I really, really like Chicago. This job opportunity at Lake Forest opened up and it’s near the city and was specifically advertising for someone in my field: philosophy of science. I looked at the campus and it’s gorgeous. I really liked the fact that even though the department is quite small, it packs a lot in a punch. I was excited to come here and start up an interest in philosophy of science interest that hadn’t been done before.”

Q: How did you first get interested in philosophy of science?

A: “I didn’t know philosophy of science was a thing until I got to graduate school, where we were required to take an introductory course. I was hooked.”

Q: What is philosophy of science?

A: “In philosophy of science, there are some general questions you might ask: What is a scientific law? What does a scientific explanation look like? Does science purport to tell us, literally, facts about the way the world is or is it doing something slightly different? You can ask questions on that scale.”

Q: What is your area of research?

A: “The questions that occupy most of my time these days are questions that are specifically targeted toward how to think about economic models: What are the idealizations we use in economic models and how do they help us gain knowledge about the way the economy works? That answer is not very clear. I think my role as a philosopher is to think about this conceptually and to take into account how actual economists think about their models and try to come up with a cohesive answer about what economic explanations look like. There’s a strand of my research focusing on econometrics and econometrics modeling.”

Q: Are your classes only for philosophy majors?

A: “No. There are no prerequisites to the classes I’m teaching this semester. My hope is that science majors take my class and see that there are interesting philosophical questions to ask about their own subject matter. There are a couple of different routes I could connect with a student doing medical research, for example. If someone’s thinking about how to model disease progression, there are lots of moving parts to setting up a model that’s informative for scientists working in that area. I’m interested in how economic events develop over time. I just happen to come from an economics standpoint. Here’s this phenomenon, it’s dynamic, it’s complex, there’s going to be a lot of moving parts to whatever formalization you use to cope with it.” 

Q: Now that you’re in your second semester here, what do you think about Lake Forest College?

A: “Lake Forest is amazing. This is the first time teaching these small classes that are really all mine. I’m getting a great response from students.”