25 Aug 2021

PRIMO 2021: An Introduction to Research


PRIMO fellow Enuma Anekwe-Desince sits in an HBS classroom with other fellows

by Dorian Salinas

Enuma Anekwe-Desince was at home recovering from COVID when she came across the Program for Research in Markets & Organizations (PRIMO) website. A rising senior at Washington and Lee University majoring in cognitive and behavioral science with a minor in Africana studies, Anekwe-Desince knew she had an interest in academic research, and this seemed like the perfect way to spend her summer. PRIMO, a summer research program at HBS, gives undergraduates the opportunity to work closely with HBS faculty on research projects that align with their passions and introduces them to research in business academia. Anekwe-Desince knew gaining acceptance into the program would be competitive, but she also knew she could bring forth a great application and that the experience itself would be unlike any other.

PRIMO is comprised of undergraduate students—also known as fellows—who spend 10 weeks during the summer working on academic business research at HBS. Through their work and program activities, the fellows are exposed to the life and work of PhD students and HBS faculty. Their work consists of research projects, presentations on pathways to academia by current faculty and doctoral students, and in-class case discussions; this helps them hone their research, writing, and data-analysis skills.

In traditional years, fellows are housed in a Harvard College dorm as part of the Harvard College Summer Research Village. The ever-changing COVID protocols did not allow that this year, as only Harvard-affiliated students were permitted residence. Maryna Macdonald, PRIMO program manager, and Marais Young, associate director of the Doctoral Programs, thinking fast on their feet, housed the fellows in Mellon Hall on the HBS campus. From the fellows’ perspective, Mellon Hall only enhanced their experience. “A part of the beauty in the experience is the fact that we were allowed to live together in one hall on the HBS campus,” Anewke-Desince said. “This allowed us to foster a closeness between us that otherwise would not have been possible.”

All fellows are assigned a research project prior to their arrival on campus. During the application process, fellows are asked to list their interests and are then paired up with a with a faculty mentor, a doctoral student tutor, and a point person in Knowledge and Library Services.

At the heart of the program’s success is the reciprocal relationship between faculty and fellows. Andy Wu, an assistant professor of business administration at HBS, participated in his third cycle at PRIMO this summer. Considering that HBS faculty primarily work with graduate students, engaging with undergraduate students at the foundation of their career path is a highlight for Wu. “It’s not blatantly obvious how one becomes a professor in this field. The fellows are gaining insight to the fieldwork and also the requirements to becoming a professor. This is especially important since this is a field that requires long-term commitment,” Wu said. Wu also noted that the pathway to becoming a professor in the business field is not widely known—the fellows’ exposure to those paths expands awareness to a broader audience.

For Roger Saumure, a rising junior at the University of Miami majoring in neuroscience with a minor in economics, participating in PRIMO meant solidifying his career choice. “I’ve always had an interest in behavioral sciences and business. PRIMO was a great opportunity for me to combine and explore the intersection between the two,” he explained. Saumure applied to PRIMO thinking he wanted to pursue a PhD and become a behavioral scientist. His experience helped him confirm that he is on the right career path. “I’m now confident in my career choice,” said Saumure. “I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in business or academic research to apply for this program. It can help lead you to a fulfilling career, and the opportunities are limitless.”

PRIMO hopes to return to a full in-person setting for summers to come. “This summer has been such a wonderful change of pace after a year of remote learning for most of these fellows.” Young explained. “It’s been a pleasure watching our PRIMO fellows delve into the world of business research. We can’t wait to see how this transformative experience influences their choices for years to come.”

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