Marvin Gerst received his bachelor's degree in Psychology from Reed College in 1962 and his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University in 1968. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Social Ecology Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University from 1968-1971. Dr. Gerst then held a joint position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California School of Medicine in San Diego and as Staff Psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Diego.
One of Dr. Gerst's major research interests has been in perceived environments and their relationship to behavior, with an emphasis on the social environment of university residential facilities and their correlates and impacts. In addition, his research has focused on symbolic coding processes in observational learning, scaling procedures of life events and their stability over time, psychiatric patients' reports of life events, and patterns in the connections between life events and psychiatric symptoms.