14 Dec 2010
Five Doctoral Students Win Research Awards
Annual prize recognizes innovative dissertation research
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BOSTON—The Harvard Business School Doctoral Programs, under the direction of Professor Mihir Desai, the Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance, have presented three Wyss Awards for Excellence in Doctoral Research and two Martin Awards for Excellence in Business Economics to five doctoral candidates. These prizes are presented annually to outstanding students engaged in innovative dissertation research.

The Wyss Awards are named in honor of Hansjoerg Wyss (MBA 1965) who, in 2004, established the Hansjoerg Wyss Endowment for Doctoral Education. The Wyss Endowment supports a broad range of efforts to strengthen the HBS Doctoral Programs, including fellowships and stipends for doctoral students, increased support for field research, new doctoral course development, teaching skills training, and the renovation of doctoral facilities on campus.

The Roger Martin Fund for Doctoral Research was established in 2006 through the generosity of Roger Martin (MBA 1981), currently Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The fund was created in memory of HBS professor John Lintner, a world-renowned expert in finance who was a mentor to Martin.

The 2010-2011 Wyss Awards recipients are:

  • Lalin Anik (Doctorate in Business Administration)
    Anik's research explores the impact of social interactions on the perceptions, preferences, and behaviors of people. Taking a behavioral approach to understanding social networks, she uses experiments and field studies to tackle interpersonal relationship issues and social influence from multiple angles. At the individual level, she shows how people's proclivity to be connectors in networks provides them with "social capital," which she defines as the feeling of well-being they receive from creating ties. Anik's work also investigates the network signaling power of products. More specifically, she examines whether products that are associated with certain social identities can subsequently be used as primes to make specific networks salient. As individuals use different products to signal desired identities to different social networks, these products become linked to those networks — such that mere exposure to products can bring to mind related social ties. Anik shows that merely seeing a product can cause certain relationships to become more salient, make people feel subjectively closer to these networks, and affect subsequent word-of-mouth intentions. Her research has managerial and market implications for shaping consumers' behavior in social contexts.
  • Michael Dickstein (Ph.D., Business Economics)
    Dickstein's research explores the design of incentives to improve decision making when outcomes are uncertain. He focuses on the market for prescription drugs, which has two important features: physicians act as agents for patients in choosing treatments, and physicians often cannot predict ahead of time which treatment will work best for a particular patient. Dickstein builds a model of decision making that captures both the physician-patient agency relationship and the learning process the physician undertakes after observing a patient's outcome. Employing this model in an empirical setting with patient data, he identifies specific insurer policies and drug promotions that can improve patient health at lower cost to insurers. Finally, Dickstein uses the results to build new treatment protocols. Rather than relying heavily on outcomes of randomized clinical trials, he illustrates the value of judging product quality based on an analysis of patient adherence rates in treatment records collected by insurers.
  • Claudine Gartenberg (Doctorate in Business Administration)
    Gartenberg is interested in whether the corporate scope of firms can induce incentive conflicts inside organizations. She uses the residential mortgage markets as her research setting and compares lending quality across firms competing in the same regions. One study investigates whether homebuilders excessively lowered lending standards to inflate homes sales during the recent housing boom. Another study, currently underway, examines how lending quality was affected by the combination of firm governance, deposit funding, and securitization operations. Ultimately, Gartenberg's work seeks to help managers and shareholders understand whether performing multiple, related functions exposes firms to costly incentive conflicts as well as learn how to minimize these costs by appropriate organizational design.

The 2010-2011 Martin Awards recipients are:

  • Sam Hanson (Ph.D., Business Economics)
    Hanson's research focuses on two main themes: corporate supply responses to shifts in investor demand for securities, and financial crises and optimal financial regulation. In one recent paper on corporate supply, Hanson and a co-author found that when debt issuance is concentrated among low-quality borrowers, subsequent returns on high-yield corporate bonds are low and often negative. The findings suggest that credit may become mispriced because investors extrapolate the recent performance of corporate bonds. In a recent paper on financial crises, Hanson and a collaborator developed a model that helps explain past collapses of securitization markets. In normal times, originators choose to issue large amounts of near-riskless, AAA-rated securities. However, these choices blunt investor incentives to build the infrastructure needed to analyze securitizations, resulting in an uninformed investor base that leads to market collapses in bad times. The model suggests that it may be useful to regulate the number of AAA-rated securities that can be issued.
  • Judd Kessler (Ph.D., Business Economics)
    Kessler's research investigates the forces that motivate individuals to contribute to public goods. He defines public goods broadly, investigating applications that include giving to charity, registering as an organ donor, paying for neighborhood street lights, and working towards a company goal. In particular, Kessler's research examines how social forces, like social pressure and social norms, have an impact on decisions to contribute to public goods. He tackles these questions with the methodology of experimental economics, conducting experiments in both the laboratory and the field. Once motivations for contribution are well understood and well modeled, the resulting theories can generate normative lessons for policy makers who want to increase contribution to socially beneficial public goods and managers who want to increase the productivity of their employees.

Harvard Business School grants the DBA in five areas of study: accounting and management, marketing, management, strategy, and technology and operations management. In addition, in conjunction with Harvard University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, it offers Ph.D. programs in business economics, health policy management, and organizational behavior. At any given time, approximately 130 HBS doctoral students are completing course work or working on their dissertations at the School.