*Project Descriptions for 2015 will be posted in january

Adware uncovered – finding and documenting perpetrators and practices

Benjamin G. Edelman

Adware sneaks onto computers and undermines users’ online experience with all manner of pop-ups and other extra advertising. Surprisingly, adware programs come from major US companies including even publicly-held companies with billion-dollar valuations. In this project, we’ll document the behavior of key perpetrators – using a test lab to preserve screenshot and video proof of installation practices, then posting the evidence for scrutiny by regulators, advertisers, and the interested public.

Most work will be in Windows, using tools both familiar (web browsers) and specialized (screen recording, network monitoring, system restore). Some technical expertise is useful, but programming is not likely to be required. Basic web publishing skills (HTML and CSS) will be useful in preparing write-ups.

Alternative models of startup funding: Disruptive challenges to venture capital


Rory M. McDonald



Startups face many disadvantages that diminish their likelihood of success and even survival. Many have recognized that early partnerships provide an important way for entrepreneurs to overcome some of these challenges, continue their development, and perhaps even prosper. For a long time, founders of high growth businesses had few choices when seeking equity funding partnerships, and most turned to venture capital. In the last few years, however, there has been an explosion in alternative funding partners and business models including super angels, accelerators/incubators, and online crowd funding platforms.



The aim of this research is to use the theories of disruptive innovation to identify, document, and categorize these alternative startup funding models and compare them to existing models. Questions include which funding partners are most beneficial to entrepreneurs and which new startup funding business models (if any) pose a disruptive threat to the venture capital industry.

PRIMO students will work closely with me and other researchers to gather primary data (interviews) and secondary data (media articles) on exemplary companies in the area of startup funding. Qualitative data will be used to construct case histories of these companies.

Analyzing career progressions of MIT and HBS alumni


Pian Shu


I am pursuing a series of research projects analyzing the career choices and long-term outcomes of top talent like MIT bachelor graduates and HBS MBA graduates. Some of the research questions in my agenda include:

1. How do economic conditions at the time of graduation affect the initial career choices of alumni, and consequently their long-term capability to innovate?

2. How might the recent financial crisis impact the career progression of graduates who otherwise would have chosen a career in finance?

3. How does failure shape the career paths of entrepreneurs? How easily do they adjust back to the regular labor market? How much does the labor market value unsuccessful entrepreneurial experience?

The PRIMO students will work closely with me to clean and/or analyze the unique data I've collected on the characteristics and career paths of MIT and HBS alumni. Specific project and task assignments will depend on each student’s interests and data skills.



Required: Basic knowledge of and experience with Stata. Recommended but not required: Proficiency in Stata. Basic understanding of Python. This project is a good fit for students considering graduate study in economics, especially in applied microeconomics research, but this is not a requirement.

Contracting as a Source of Value in Private Equity

Victoria Ivashina

The goal of this project is to deepen understanding of the sources of value in private equity. The sources of value creation in private equity are somewhat elusive. My central hypothesis is that debt structuring, debt management (including leveraged recapitalization and restructuring), and even direct investment in debt are integral aspects of the private equity value proposition. The specific project is tentatively titled “Contracting as a Source of Value in Private Equity;” it will examine contractual innovation by private equity firms.

My previous work shows that private equity firms—and specifically the biggest private equity firms—have large bargaining power vis-à-vis their originating lender. This new study will dive into the specifics of loan contracts. For this purpose I acquired substantial loan-contract data from a legal firm that specializes in analyzing debt contracts. We will look at whether private equity firms creatively negotiate financing terms, putting emphasis on ex-post renegotiation flexibility.

The project requires deep interest in (and capacity for) corporate finance and financial intermediation. Working on this project will help you better understand debt markets and the private equity industry, and will expose you to relevant databases. You need to have basic statistical skills and be able to learn quickly.

Death of a cynosure

Daniel Malter

This study aims to investigate the effect of the unanticipated death of an important community member on the strategic and hostile behaviors in a virtual world. The insights from this study will gain insight into who uses signals of sympathy and whether sympathy is or can be used strategically. More broadly, the study hopes to elucidate how the sense of community between social entities affects their competitive and cooperative behaviors. The ideal candidate has outstanding skills in web crawling (perl, python, or other suitable languages) and a strong background or interest in the social sciences, sociology in particular.

Decision Making and Behavioral Economics

Max Bazerman, Alison Wood Brooks, Ryan W. Buell, Francesca Gino, Leslie K. John, and Michael I. Norton

Our research focuses on judgment and decision making, with applications to organizational and consumer behavior, as well as behavioral economics. The topics we investigate include (but are not limited to): ethical decision-making, team and organizational dynamics and performance, rituals, inequality, when and why people disclose information, health behavior, and how customers and companies interact. We investigate these questions primarily with laboratory and field experiments, and your role would be to assist in the entire process – from idea generation, to experiment design, to data collection and analysis, to writing up results.

We hold a weekly lab meeting with our doctoral students and research assistants in which members present their current research, and we discuss “random ideas” that we try to turn into research projects. Our lab is ideal for undergraduates who are interested in books such as Predictably Irrational, Nudge, and Blink, and who are interested in attending graduate school in psychology, sociology, organizational behavior, or marketing (though interest in graduate school is not a prerequisite).

Gathering and Analyzing Negotiation Results Data

Francesca Gino and Kevin Mohan

Project workload: 30-40 hours a week for 10 weeks during June, July, August; can possible extend to 5-10 hours a week in the fall to ensure the system works.

First steps: Student will review roughly 12-15 negotiation simulations and examine/refine the systems to collect, analyze, and present the data from the results. Students will be asked to read a negotiation book to familiarize themselves with the content of negotiation classes we teach. The student will produce a master plan including results pages, paper and electronic poll collection mechanisms, spreadsheets to analyze results, standard results pages presented in slide format, and “adaptation” systems to allow professors to customize results beyond the standard packages. This system will be produced for each negotiation, with priority on the negotiations most used and most in need of automation.

The student will report to Francesca and Kevin, but will gain exposure to 5-8 of the other Negotiation professors and attempt to include the inputs of all professors into the system. If mutually acceptable and interesting, the student may attend classes in the fall and assist professors and course assistants with the first implementations of the new systems.

The sponsors expect that there will be improvements and adjustments required after implementation begins.

Gender, Household Bargaining and Economic Outcomes around the Globe

Kathleen L. McGinn

How do gender attitudes and local culture affect the allocation of work in the home and the outcomes realized by women and men at work? I am looking for a PRIMO Fellow to work with my doctoral students and me on a series of studies exploring gender, household bargaining and economic returns.

My recent studies explore career mobility among female lawyers and management consultants at one extreme, and the lives of self-employed garment workers and artisans in India at the other extreme. Across these and the new studies we are carrying out this year, we hope to draw a comprehensive picture of the ways in which women’s and men’s careers, their families and their communities are affected by gender dynamics at home, at work and in society. This summer, we will focus on four of the current studies – all large scale, international field studies. A PRIMO fellow would be exposed to survey design and data collection (in Spanish), interview data and coding, and longitudinal census data, along with background literature reviews on sociological and economic views of gender and work.

Applicants must have good quantitative skills and writing skills, be familiar with a statistical package (preferably STATA), and be fluent in Spanish.


Juan Alcacer

Are you interested in how global markets evolve? How companies compete with each other in multiple markets? How local governments sell off their assets with the hopes to privatize and build larger, more efficient industries? Our research project team invites Harvard undergraduate students with interests in international business, foreign direct investment and international institutions. Our research explores the global wireless telecommunications industry in over 210 countries. This terrain captures most of the economic movement on the planet. Our team explores a broad range of research questions related to how markets evolve, how firms compete and how firms respond strategically to the institutional environment.

Hedge Fund Activism

Suraj Srinivasan

Hedge fund driven shareholder activism is presently one of the most important and controversial developments in the US business world. In the last few years hedge fund managers like Bill Ackman (Pershing Square), Carl Icahn (Icahn Enterprises), Daniel Loeb (Third Point) among others have become a powerful force in US corporate governance by challenging boards and management of companies over poor performance. I have been studying activist investing and its role in corporate governance in my research and case writing. The student will help me in one or more of several ongoing projects. These include:

- Writing cases on interesting activist events. Student will be involved in collecting information of the activists’ engagement with the company and writing a draft of a case study. This will allow the student to gain an in depth understanding of the process of hedge fund activism. Part of the role will be to be involved in the design of a new course on activist investing.

- Collecting and analyzing large sample empirical data on activism, its causes and consequences. This will allow the student to gain an understanding of the range of activist approaches and how to design a research study around the phenomenon.

- Help design and conduct a survey of corporate directors on challenges posed to companies from activist investors.

This project would be of interest to a student interested in business strategy, corporate governance, or finance. It will help the student get exposed to what is currently a leading edge investment and business phenomenon both from a practice and research point of view.

How Do We Process Information to Make a Decision?

Uma R. Karmarkar

What do you use to help you choose? Nearly every choice, big or small, involves bringing together all the available information to help us arrive at a final decision. This information arrives in different ways at different times, and is often incomplete. For example, imagine browsing in a store for a laptop – do you think about prices first, do you focus on the way the keyboard feels, or the processing speed? Does thinking about one factor influence how you think about the others? Broadly speaking, my research examines how people integrate the information they do have, estimate value, and even experience the outcomes of their choices.

I draw from disciplines such as psychology, economics, and neuroscience to inform my experimental research. Your role would be to assist in the design, data collection and data analysis for behavioral studies online and in the lab. There may also be the opportunity to learn about or assist with experiments involving decision neuroscience methods such as fMRI and/or eye-tracking.

This research stream would be ideal for those interested in how people make choices, particularly in marketplace contexts. It can also offer some introduction to the emerging field of decision neuroscience and/or neuroeconomics. Some familiarity with SPSS, Stata, or other statistical packages would be helpful. Coursework or experience in neuroscience would be a huge plus, but is not at all expected. This project is a good fit for students who are considering graduate school in psychology, behavioral economics, marketing, and other fields related to judgment and decision-making (though an interest in graduate school is also not a requirement.)


Tsedal Neeley

Global collaborations are on the rise in today's business. The sheer scale and complexity of many of these collaborations, which span more languages, geographies and cultures than ever, require workers to communicate effectively across various contexts using a range of communication modalities if they are to deliver results and meet performance targets. My research examines the challenges of such communication, particularly when operationalized by a standard language such as English and enabled by information technology, both of which shape the effectiveness of global collaboration. By taking an in-depth look at the intrapersonal, interpersonal and intergroup challenges people encounter in global collaborations, I contribute to a nascent field of research. Applying a problem-centered approach, I investigate how these collaboration challenges influence the way workers experience themselves, their collaboration partners and their organizations.

How Star Women Succeed

Boris Groysberg

A major focus of my research and teaching at the business school is talent and career management including how high achieving professionals build and manage their own individual careers. In one of our studies, we found that there were gender differences in star men and women building their careers. Why this difference?

This very important question inspired the How Star Women Succeed (HSWS) project, and we have interviewed over 250 highly successful women across the globe to better understand how successful women build their careers with the intent to advance a greater understanding of how women succeed. In addition to HSWS the larger research effort looks at women from undergraduates to successful corporate directors. For each piece of the study, we have collected both quantitative and qualitative data. I am seeking two PRIMO Fellows to contribute to the work on the study this summer. The Fellows will have the opportunity to contribute in important ways by organizing and working with both quantitative and qualitative study data. Possible projects may include, for example, conducting library research and interviews, reading interview transcripts and coding data.

In general, an interest and enthusiasm for working with different research methods is desired.

Improving the Value of Health Care Delivery

Robert S. Kaplan and Michael E. Porter

Professors Robert S. (Bob) Kaplan and Michael Porter are collaborating on action-based research to help health care providers better measure and improve the value of the care they deliver (outcomes relative to costs). A key component of this research is working with clinicians to understand, and then redesign care delivery processes to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Over the summer, a student will likely play a role in one or more projects at Boston area hospitals, such as by spending time with patients and clinicians to help document the care delivery process for a medical condition.

A student may additionally be able to provide analytic support related to a program to improve the value of care for joint replacements that over thirty hospitals across the world are participating in.

A keen interest in health care delivery, as well as experience and comfort using Excel.

Investigating Corporate Crime

Eugene F. Soltes

White-collar crime is featured prominantly in the media on nearly a daily basis. Fines in excess of a billion dollars, once unheard of, are now occurring with regularity. How much has changed over time? The project seeks to understand the the incidence, frequency, and penalties associated with corporate crime.

Strong programming skills. CS 50 (or equivalent), plus additional related coursework is desirable.

Motivation, Emotion, and Learning

Teresa M. Amabile

My research projects focus on the psychological aspects of work. I run an active research laboratory with several doctoral students interested in the intersection of social psychology and business. Specific topics of interest are: learning, emotions, identity, meaning, motivation, and communication in the workplace.

Projects planned for summer 2014 include:

1) Attitudes toward and adjustment to retirement, as a function of the meaning of work for the individual,

2) The individual experience of learning at work,

3) The implications of emotional regulation on individual and group performance, and

4) How emotion is conveyed and interpreted in virtual communication.

These questions will be explored both qualitatively and quantitatively in a mix of laboratory and field settings.PRIMO fellows will attend weekly laboratory meetings and will actively work on multiple projects. Research tasks will be highly varied and will encompass the entire research process, including brainstorming ideas, designing studies, running studies, conducting background research, qualitative coding, and data analysis.

This research is ideal for people who are interested in both psychology and business. Having coursework or experience in either of these fields is very beneficial. Furthermore, applicants should be very proactive and feel comfortable working both independently and as part of a collaborative team.

Opportunities and Challenges in Micro Finance Industry

Rajiv Lal

This project will focus on three questions:

1. The history and evolution of the Micro Finance Industry in Emerging Markets of Asia and Latin America. What are the similarities and differences across the regions?
2. What are they key opportunities and challenges facing the industry indifferent parts of the world.
3. How are companies responding to these challenges?

The project involves reviewing the literature on micro finance starting with the work of Muhammad Younis in Bangladesh which has spread across South Asia. There is also a significant history of Micro Finance in Latin America. Most of this work will require a review of the pertinent books, cases and research papers.

With that as the foundation, the next phase of the work will require phone interviews with the key players in the two regions of the world. I will provide the contacts and facilitate the interviews.

The output will be a research paper that we will use as background reading for the sessions on Micro Finance in the conference in Fall.


Juan Alcacer

What happens with firms and industries that outsource their activities all over the globe? De-integration of in-house vertical value chains and outsourcing of business functions to external (and often foreign) providers has become a standard practice in high tech industry over the last several decades. Often a highly contested topic in politics, public policy and management, outsourcing spawned a rich stream of academic literature. However, the full long-term effects of outsourcing on firms, industries and industrial clusters operating in a global production system remain relatively unexplored.

Without a doubt, outsourcing practices of manufacturing and design work to other countries and gradual decoupling of these two activities have had significant impact on high-tech industry both at home and abroad: absorptive capacities, product and process innovation, workforce skilling/de-skilling were arguably all affected. In addition, the vertical specialization of R&D and increasing modularization of product development led to more transferrable and separable activity chain, further enhancing global distribution of work. While major "outsourcers" can (and often do) suffer loss of high-tech manufacturing ability and impairment of design capacity at their home bases, at the same time they often shift their strategic focus on more high-value added activities like system integration and advanced custom design. In addition, these firms can utilize joint ventures and alliances to compensate for forfeited knowledge that could have been generated from integrated in-house activity chain. If present, inter-firm multi-directional knowledge flow allows complementary innovation to take place, permitting the continuous advancement of the industry as a whole. Also, an elimination of high initial investment as operational requirement (such as integrated semiconductor manufacturing capacity for example) can reduce barriers to entry and introduce Schumpeterian dynamics in otherwise inert industrial segments. Finally, decoupling of products and processes has a potential to reduce organizational inertia and increase rates and quality of product innovation in the industry.

A dynamic evolution of global semiconductor industry presents us with an excellent setting in which we try to answer numerous interesting questions for scientists, managers and policymakers alike: What are the conditions that allow for physical separation of activities in a value chain? How does separation of manufacturing and R&D activities affect innovative capabilities of original integrated firms over time? How does vertical de-integration affect labor force in industrial clusters? How does the subsequent change in barriers to entry affect the entrepreneurship in industrial clusters? How does vertical de-integration affect the industry as a whole? What part of value chain do most valuable innovations come from? How do firms compensate for excessive decentralization in a very dynamic high-tech environment? How does the knowledge flow and how it is allocated between global clusters of production?

To answer these questions we have compiled a unique panel dataset that combines data on international patents and inventor locations, international scientific journal publications and author locations, global manufacturing locations, and industrial and market statistics for semiconductor industry from 1950-2005. Summer work will involve reading academic literature, designing models and performing data analysis and statistical tests for this study.

An ideal candidate should be interested in innovation and technology and have basic programming skills (Excel and Stata).

Performance improvement in health care organizations

Anita L. Tucker

How might we be able to draw on operations management principles to design health care delivery systems that are more effective and efficient than they currently are? As the implementation of the Affordable Care Act brings about broad changes to the health care delivery system, systems-level thinking is particularly important.

In this project, we will develop a manuscript that synthesizes the current literature on performance improvement in health care organizations and also identifies important emerging paradigms and directions for future research. We will work together to conduct literature reviews on topics including transformational change in health care, motivation, work design, organizational learning, and internal supply chains. We will then develop outlines to synthesize the material and ultimately produce a full-length manuscript.

An ideal candidate should be a self-starter and a strong writer with experience conducting academic literature reviews. A prior interest in health care operations management and quality improvement are a plus. In general, enthusiasm and curiosity to learn are desired.

Re-Imagining and Re-inventing Businesses

Cynthia A. Montgomery

Businesses, like people, change over time; rarely do their prospects remain constant over long periods of time.

In this research we will be looking at companies that have redefined who they are. We will begin by considering what it means to reinvent a business, and the methods and measures we will use when identifying our sample. We will then delve into the rich and varied stories of individual companies, working to identify critical variables at play and insights that may be generalized. [This is the exploratory phase of a larger, empirical project.]

Students will be encouraged to push the boundaries on this research—to seek out compelling examples off the well-beaten path, including those of companies outside the U.S.

Best fit: PRIMO students with strong liberal arts backgrounds – qualitative research skills, ability to conceptualize, strong writing, and a creative spirit. A portion of the work will build on William James’ pragmatic theory of truth; it’s not necessary that you’re familiar with this beforehand, but if you are, all the better.

Social Decision Making

Christine E. Looser 

Humans are an incredibly social species and this phenomena rests on our ability to understand the minds of others. My research focuses on how the brain identifies and evaluates other people, and how those evaluations influence the decisions we make. In particular, I am interested in asymmetries between how we see ourselves and how we think others see us, as well as asymmetries in how we see others and how we think they see themselves. Specific projects will be tailored to the students' interests but all work is heavily experimental and students will be active participants in the entire scientific process, from generating ideas to designing studies to collecting and analyzing data. There are no prerequisites other than an interest in studying social behavior, attention to detail, and enthusiasm.

Social Psychology in Organizations

Amy Cuddy

Our research focuses on the ways in which people behave and interact in organizational contexts. Specifically, we focus on how nonverbal behavior and emotional expression can influence how people act and are perceived by others.  Simple tweaks of body language can change how people behave in profound ways.  We are exploring the link between nonverbal behavior and performance, how warmth, competence, and power are communicated and interpreted from nonverbal behavior, and how emotional expressions influence behavior and judgments.  We also explore how perceptions of employees are influenced by demographic characteristics such as gender and race.  We use experimental methods, including eye-tracking equipment, physiological measures, hormonal assays, and voice analysis, to explore the effect of nonverbal behavior in the lab, online, and in the field.

Social Psychology

The Challenge of Building Unique Data Sets

Barbara Esty

Faculty are continually challenged to contribute to their field’s theory and literature as well as to make an impact with practitioners. This requires having actionable information available for analysis. Creating datasets that span across time is a continuing challenge. Gathering and updating data that changes over time both in form and medium is time-consuming and very detailed. For example, to create a dataset of the largest corporations in the world since the 1950’s or earlier may involve synthesizing information from print, CD-ROM, and Web-based tools. And at the same time, integrating consistent data from multiple sources is crucial to the integrity of the dataset.

Our project involves updating some existing large datasets based on the Fortune500, as well as creating long-run datasets of large global corporations using the Global500 ranking and other ranked lists such the S&P500. In this this research project, you will work with 9 very seasoned researchers (a mix of Librarians, Statisticians, Economists, and MBAs) who support the 200+ faculty and doctoral students at HBS. This is an excellent opportunity to experience the research process in action; to build and broaden skills in Excel, Bloomberg, assorted databases both financial and other; and to navigate the vast collections at Baker Library and throughout the Harvard Library system.

In general, enthusiasm and adaptability to work with research tools and resources of many types is desired. This project will require attention to detail, basic Excel skills, and lots of patience and curiosity.

The specific project is open to change as large scale faculty research projects occur, reflecting the nature of research at HBS.

Transparency and Organizational Productivity

Ethan S. Bernstein

In the name of collaboration, organizations have striven for transparency in the workplace, literally tearing down walls in an effort to let managers and employees observe each other. But is there a downside to all of this transparent observation? Despite transparency’s broad appeal (at least to the observer), we know very little about how transparent observation—by managers, peers, subordinates, customers, the public—impacts performance. Using lab and field experiments, in conjunction with selected in-depth case studies, this research aims to contribute to this nascent field. Work this summer will likely focus on the effects of transparency on productivity in increasingly “flat” or self-governed organizations like Valve Software and Zappos.


Ranjay Gulati

This project has two parts. In the first part of this research project we will explore some of the fundamental theories of leadership and translate them for a younger audience. The goal here is to make the decades worth of research in businesses schools on leadership relevant to high school and college students.

We will first conduct a survey of the vast domain of leadership and then look for accessible ways to communicate some of those principles. We will conduct extensive research to find illustrations, stories, and videos that will effectively communicate key principles of leadership to this audience. In the second part of this project we will explore some of the leading psychometric tools available to assess an individuals leadership potential and conduct an assessment of each of them to identify some of the top tools for various facets of leadership.

The project will require archival research skills, good analytics, and a task orientation to get this done.

Various Fianance Projects

Luis M. Viceira

1) Research project examining the benefits of international portfolio diversification at long horizons.

2) Research project examining the monetary policy drivers of bond risk

3) Research project examining mutual fund flows and their impact on aggregate stock market valuations

4) A project to design a dynamic learning exercise on asset manager performance evaluation to be done in my upcoming EC course in the business of money

5) Two cases examining issues related to endowment and asset management, one with a large foundation, and another with a large university

6) One case examining the scope for consolidation and transformation in the market for investment advisors

Venture Capital and Private Equity

Paul A. Gompers

This project has two components. The first is ongoing work with Yuhai Xuan and Vladimir Mukharlyamov looking at the importance of social ties in the venture capital and entrepreneurial world. We are hoping to be part of the PRIMO program and bring several undergraduates aboard for this very large project. We are currently working on several related projects included looking at success of new venture capital offices, looking at ethnic ties among venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, and looking at the endogeneity of social ties in the venture capital industry.

The second part of the project is an exploration of the private equity industry. I have developed a survey to gain insights on valuation and capital structure issues within the private equity industry. The recent credit crisis has likely affected both valuation approaches and capital structure choices. As such, this survey should provide important insights into theory building around both of theseissues. The project also entails work related to the Private Equity Finance course in the second year of the MBA.

The PRIMO fellow will work onindividual research projects and help with case related development for thePrivate Equity Finance course. I would hope the PRIMO fellow my work on writing a case study as well as pick a paper project of interest to develop.

Corporate Governance in India

Professor Suraj Srinivasan

Professor Suraj Srinivasan I am studying the emerging landscape of corporate governance in India. Economic growth over the past decade has made India one of the hottest economic stories in the world. The rapid growth in the economy has created demands from investors and other stakeholders for governance reform. The recently passed Companies Bill introduces mandatory corporate social responsibility, improved board governance requirements, among a whole host of other changes. India is therefore a great laboratory for understanding the role of corporate governance in economic performance. We will ask questions like — what types of governance changes matter for growth? Which companies are better at adopting governance reforms? What entrepreneurial initiatives are emerging to fill in gaps in governance institutions (e.g., proxy advisory services)? What role do foreign investors play in governance?

The student will help me in one or more of several ongoing projects. These include:

  • Writing cases on companies and governance changes. The student will be involved in collecting information and writing a draft of a case study.
  • Collecting and analyzing large sample empirical data on corporate governance practices in India. This will allow the student to collaborate with me in designing a research study around the phenomenon. There is no travel to India involved. This project would be of interest to a student interested in business strategy, corporate governance, or finance with a focus on emerging markets.