Why did you choose to pursue a PhD in your discipline of Business?
I always found it fascinating to observe people interacting with each other and the material world around them. I chose to pursue a PhD in behavioral marketing because I found myself always wondering why people made the choices that they did, how they felt about their choices, and how they thought about their future choices. I wanted to study a discipline that would give me the tools to answer whatever question about human behavior I might have. If the data isn't available or even in existence, I now know how to run an experiment (in the lab or in the field) and gather that data myself, and that is really empowering. In marketing, we draw on a number of social science disciplines to better understand anomalies that we observe and we can use data to hopefully draw insights that can be applied to real-world problems. This approach felt like a good fit for me.
Why did you choose to come to Columbia Business School for a PhD?
When I first visited Columbia Business School, I really liked how the behavioral and quantitative sides of our department were very integrated and supportive of each other. I think we can learn a lot about our own approach by seeing how others approach a research question. Something that is special about Columbia (that we are really missing in the pandemic) is the vibrant office culture. Unlike most schools, the PhD students work in cubicles that are in the middle of the professors’ offices. It can get extremely loud and sometimes hard to focus on work, but we are all there together, drinking countless coffees, talking through all our projects, and laughing (or even crying) as much as we can to help each other through the PhD.
What type of research are you exploring?
My research follows three different directions. First, I am really interested in how people make decisions that require serious tradeoffs, and how they feel about those decisions afterwards. We compare making a tradeoff decision to following orders and executing someone else’s decision. I study this in the context of both public policy decisions like economic reopening post COVID-19 as well as programming of autonomous products.
Second, I want to help develop interventions to nudge consumers to be more environmentally sustainable. I study this in a number of ways. One is finding clever ways of getting people to recycle by changing product features. Another is by trying to understand what factors increase consumers’ comfort with access-based consumption (like peer-to-peer sharing economy programs) as opposed to always buying new products.
Finally, I am fascinated by how smartphones have changed interpersonal communication and subsequently, consumer well-being. I’m working on an experiment to better understand how the use of messaging apps influences feelings of social connectedness and whether constant communication changes if and when we make decisions alone or jointly with others.
What’s your favorite part of the PhD experience so far?
One of my favorite parts has been all the great conversations about ideas and about life with my fellow classmates and our professors. I can’t wait to return to campus after the pandemic. Another favorite activity is traveling with my fellow students to conferences (pre-pandemic) like the 2019 Marketing Science conference in Rome. The pizza is pretty good in New York….but it’s even better in Rome!
Which faculty member(s) and/or courses influenced you the most, and how?
Our consumer behavior, experimental design, and research methods courses have been really foundational to how I think about research questions and how I empirically test them. In behavioral marketing, we mainly run experiments and collect our own data which is really exciting. In our empirical models course and big data course I am taking right now, we learn how to test research questions with secondary data. I think understanding these two very different methodologies and how we can integrate them to approach a question from many angles makes me a stronger researcher. The summer after our first or second year we took a seminar with Professor Don Lehmann. He’s been in the field for more than 50 years, so it’s really fascinating to learn from him and hear about his perspective on how the field has evolved over the past half century. I was lucky enough to coauthor a piece with him and three other professors on how consumer research has developed over his tenure. We also have incredible junior faculty members Melanie Brucks and Liz Friedman, who joined us about a year and half ago. They are a couple steps ahead of me on this academic journey and are really great role models.
What has been your academic experience at CBS?
I am really grateful for the advice and guidance of all our professors, especially my advisor Gita Johar. We have a great set of PhD courses within the Business School, but we are also encouraged to take courses in other departments. I have had the chance to take psychology and statistics courses with leaders in the field, the people who wrote the theories and textbooks we all use in our research. They have all been so supportive and happy to collaborate which has been an amazing experience. For instance, I have a paper with Professor Janet Metcalfe (psychology department) and another marketing student that originated from an idea the two of us had in Professor Metcalfe’s cognitive processes doctoral seminar. Another cool aspect of our program is that we have funding from our first year to go to conferences. So, from the first semester in our program, we were already hearing research presentations from the field at large and meeting students and professors from other schools. This really helps us become a part of the larger academic marketing community.
What are your future plans and how has your PhD experience translated into growth in your career?
I really want to continue in academia and become a marketing professor. I want to research topics that are impactful for marketers, policy makers, and every individual consumer. I also want to teach both future business leaders as well as future academicians.
What will you take with you from your CBS experience?
I’ve learned so much and made so many friends. I want to take that all with me. But I will be happy leave behind the existential question of will I get through the PhD and will I get a job on the other end? I think all doctoral students can relate to that…our shared struggles are part of the fun.