“One thing I’ve come to appreciate more and more in graduate school is how multidimensional research is. It requires a long list of skills—it is not just about thinking through the research questions, but also about collaboration, communication, time budgeting, and prioritizing.”
I grew up in Beijing, China. My mother teaches economics and management at a university. She had a big influence on my passion for economics and research. I used to listen to her commenting on economic issues during the commute from school to home, which was my first introduction to the concepts and questions in economics. In 8th grade, I needed to learn more English and she pulled from her shelf an English book—it happened to be Greg Mankiw’s Principles of Economics. I read the book sentence by sentence for two months, looking up every word I didn’t know, to learn English.
My experiences growing up also had a major influence on my interests in finance. I travelled with my family in China, and everywhere I saw firms and entrepreneurs struggling to raise funding as the financial system was riddled with frictions and barriers. I also witnessed the dramatic swing in the Chinese stock market, which had a big impact on many people’s lives. Then the global financial crisis struck when I was in high school. I felt deeply that finance is hugely important to the efficiency and well-being of a society, and I really wanted to understand it better.
I chose to come to the U.S. for college partly because the universities here are the leading research institutions in the world. I started getting involved in research in college and really loved it. It was a natural next step after college to pursue a Ph.D. to keep working on the things I am enthusiastic about.
My main research interests are finance and macroeconomics. Related to my experiences growing up, I am very interested in understanding financial frictions, including their origins and broader implications. I am also interested in studying people’s beliefs about the uncertain future, as most decisions in finance and macroeconomics are made in the face of uncertainty and beliefs play a central role.
In the past few years, I have studied how non-financial firms in the U.S. exploit capital market frictions and act as arbitrageurs across different security markets. This type of opportunistic behavior by firms appears to be a significant component of financing activities in capital markets today; it could also affect how we think about government policies like quantitative easing, as well as other corporate activities like mergers. I have also worked on projects that study beliefs and important economic decisions, both in the context of corporate investment in general, and banking and the financial crisis in particular.
Looking into the future, I am excited to explore a list of other issues, most of which lie in the intersection of finance and macroeconomics.
Business Economics Program
I am in the Business Economics program, a joint program between HBS and the Harvard Economics Department. It is an intellectually stimulating environment. Faculty members are extremely supportive, and offer diverse, critical, and insightful views. They have taught me a lot about how to think, how to deal with challenges and difficulties, and how to collaborate. I also really love my fellow students at Harvard. They are kind, thoughtful, and active. I learn enormously from the questions they ask in classes and seminars, from their work, and from casual conversations about research and life.
The HBS Experience
One unique aspect of HBS that I really appreciate is the exposure to the business community. This is valuable to me because I want to understand how firms and investors think, the key determinants of their decisions, and exciting things that are going on in real time. I really enjoy going to HBS events with prominent CEOs and investors and learning about their insights.
I love research and would like to stay in the research community in the future. I hope I could make intellectual contributions that advance our understanding of some important issues.
Advice for prospective HBS doctoral students
One thing I’ve come to appreciate more and more in graduate school is how multidimensional research is. It requires a long list of skills—it is not just about thinking through the research questions (which by itself is non-trivial), but also about collaboration, communication, time budgeting, and prioritizing. We all come in with a lot of passion for research, but over time we may discover aspects of it that are challenging. I really like the advice from one of my favorite dancers Maria Kochetkova, “Success is not necessarily about how talented you are, but about how smart you work and how smart you accept all the difficulties that come on your way, because there will be many, but they are there to make you stronger, not to push you away from what you love.”