PETER V. MARSDEN, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of Sociology, received his undergraduate degree (Sociology and History) at Dartmouth College (1973) and his graduate degrees (Sociology, MA  and Ph.D. ) at the University of Chicago. His Harvard appointment commenced in 1987 after he taught for ten years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also held administrative assignments as Associate Chair and Special Assistant to the Dean. At Harvard, he was Chair of the Sociology Department between 1992 and 1998 and in 2002-03. He chaired the Policy and Admissions Committee for the Ph.D. Program in Organizational Behavior between 2000 and 2003, and again between 2005 and 2010. From 2011 until 2015 he served as Dean of Social Science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Marsden's scholarly writing centers on social organization, especially organizational analysis and social networks. He has ongoing interests in social science methodology, survey research and the sociology of medicine. Most of his recent network studies involve examination of the properties of personal or “egocentric” networks, as well as survey methods for measuring them. Organizational studies examine factors linked to the presence of various human resource practices—recruitment and staffing methods, "high performance" practices, and the use of "contingent" workers—in U.S. workplaces, based on data from establishment surveys. From 1997 until 2015 Marsden was a Co-Principal Investigator directing the ongoing data collection programs of the General Social Survey. He edited Social Trends in American Life (Princeton University Press, 2012), which won the AAPOR Book Award in 2015, as well as (with James D. Wright) the second edition of the Handbook of Survey Research (Emerald, 2012). He was a lead investigator of three National Organizations Studies conducted between 1991 and 2003, and a co-investigator on a project examining organizational approaches to the improvement of HIV care. In 2016 he was honored to receive the Paul F. Lazarsfeld award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Methodology, in recognition of a career of outstanding contributions to methodology in sociology.
At Harvard, Marsden has offered courses on organizational analysis, social networks, mathematical sociology, quantitative methods, research methods, and integrating micro- and macro-sociology. He is a past member of the Sociology review panel for the National Science Foundation and the General Social Survey Board of Overseers (chairing the latter from 1993 until 1997), and currently serves on several editorial boards. Between 1991 and 1995 he edited Sociological Methodology, the annual methodology volume sponsored by the American Sociological Association. He chaired Harvard's University Benefits Committee and its Health Plans Subcommittee until 2010.