Tag: PhD

The Quantitative Marketing and Structural Econometrics Workshop hosted this month at Washington University attracted 153 PhD students and faculty from across the country who create complex models to dice and slice big data sets for research in the areas of marketing, economics, and operations.

The workshop’s goal is to prepare PhD students for the rigors of research in the academic job market, according to Olin’s Raphael Thomadsen, associate professor of marketing and co-organizer of the gathering.

Olin Professor Raphael Thomadsen“We saw many students going into the job market with supposed ‘structural’ papers which were not meaningfully structural at all,” said Thomadsen who created the workshop in 2010 with Brett Gordon, a professor at Kellogg School of Management.

“Rather, these papers had very complex models that were often not identified by the data. Further, many people ran structural models without understanding what benefits a structural model might bring.”

Zhenling Jiang, a PhD student at Olin, attended the workshop for a second time this July. She is preparing to go on the marketing job market in Summer 2018. According to Jiang, “It was hugely helpful for my PhD study. The workshop brings thought leaders in the field to share their experience and state-of-the-art techniques to students. Each topic is taught by someone who is highly experienced in the area.”PhD candidate Zhenling Jiang

The workshop is intended for PhD students in marketing, economics, or related business disciplines who have completed at least two courses on microeconomics and econometrics. So, as you would imagine, I needed her help translating the subject for this post.

Basics of Structural and Non‐Structural Analysis

Thomadsen kicked off the workshop with the basics, as depicted in this chart:

classification of empirical work

Descriptive statistical analysis I understood, but models were new to me.

So I asked Jiang to explain: “Theory-based models draw on analysis of theories about how agents behave. The model could come from economic theory or psychology theory. For example, consumers maximize their utility or firms maximize profit. The structural model describes how agents make decisions, and this results in the observational data being generated from agents behaving according to the model (i.e. the data generating process).

“By getting the ‘primitives of the model,’ effectively we know how agents will behave. The powerful thing about structural models is that you can simulate what agents’ behavior will be like under a different situation (counterfactual analysis) that is not observed in data.”

Her explanation was helpful, but still a little beyond my comprehension. Another presentation takeaway was reassuring, “Structural need not be complex, and complexity does not mean structural.” But then came the next presentation.

Model-Free Evidence and Structural Models

Brett Gordon presents Model-Free Evidence and Structural Models

Professor Brett Gordon led the students through a marketing problem about a digital advertising campaign for an online retailer. How did exposing consumers to an online ad (with a $10 discount code) affect sales? He explained that descriptive analysis—model-free evidence—should motivate a structural model.

Then, by applying a structural model to the observational data, one can make predictions beyond the observed data. For example, what would sales be if free shipping were offered?

structural model example

structural model assumptionsAnswering questions like this is why we need PhDs in marketing.

PhDs intently focused at Quantitative Marketing WorkshopAccording to Thomadsen, the workshop has two types of sessions: philosophical and technique. “For the philosophical sessions, we want students to understand that when one estimates a structural model (or any model, really), one needs to think about the data generating process behind it. If one cannot identify what variation in the data links the data to the parameter estimates, then one needs to either get better data or use a different model.

“For the technique sessions, we discuss how to estimate demand, how to solve models with dynamics (where the choices you make today affect the tradeoffs you face tomorrow), estimate game theory models (where the choices one person/firm makes affects the payoffs of another person/firm, and vice versa), and new machine learning techniques.”

Note: The Quantitative Marketing and Structural Econometrics Workshop was hosted at Washington University on July 17-19, 2017. Previously, Thomadsen co-organized this workshop with Brett Gordon of Kellogg, and Rick Staelin of Duke University. The workshop was held at Duke’s executive center in 2010 and 2013 and at Kellogg’s Allen Center in 2015. Attendance has ranged roughly from 95 – 130 students and faculty in the past years, not including the organizers and presenters.

Alumni in the news

Mikhail Pevzner, associate professor of accounting in the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business and program director of Merrick’s Master in Accounting and Business Advisory Services program, has been appointed an Academic Accounting Fellow for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Chief Accountant. He will serve in this role in the SEC’s Washington, D.C. offices beginning this August and continuing for one year. Pevzner earned his PhD at Olin.

The Office of the Chief Accountant acts as the primary adviser to the SEC on auditing and accounting matters. Academic Accounting Fellows serve as research resources for SEC staff by interpreting and communicating research materials as they relate to the agency.

The fellows have been assigned to ongoing projects in the Chief Accountant’s office including rulemaking, monitoring the developments of the accounting and auditing standards-setting bodies, and consulting with registrants on accounting, auditing, independence and reporting matters.

MPevzner196Pevzner says he is deeply honored that the SEC has selected him to be one of the two visiting academic fellows during the upcoming academic year.

“I sincerely hope that my academic expertise in auditing and financial reporting will help the SEC in their very important mission of ensuring the effective regulatory oversight of the U.S. capital markets,” he said. “I want to express my deep thanks to everyone within and outside UB for their support in my pursuit of this highly prestigious fellowship. I am very hopeful that the knowledge I will gain from working at the SEC will greatly benefit UB students and my faculty colleagues upon my return to teaching.”

Pevzner earned a bachelor’s in business administration with a focus in accounting from the University of Minnesota. He earned Ph.D. in business administration with concentration in accounting from Washington University in St. Louis and is a licensed CPA in Maryland and Minnesota. Pevzner is a member of the American Accounting Association and the Maryland Association of CPAs. He holds the Merrick School’s EY Chair in Accounting and its Yale Gordon Chair in Distinguished Teaching. He also serves as academic director for the M.S. in Accounting and Business Advisory program.

Pevzner recently was awarded the school’s Black & Decker Outstanding Article award for a co-authored paper entitled “When Firms Talk, Do Investors Listen? The Role of Trust in Stock Market Reactions to Corporate Earnings Announcements.” The article, co-authored with Profs. Fei Xie of University of Delaware and Xiangang Xin of City University of Hong Kong, was published in July 2015 issue of Journal of Financial Economics.

From August 4, 2016 News Release from The University of Baltimore


Naming an “employee of the month” may backfire on your business. New research from an Olin PhD alumnus and Lamar Pierce, associate professor of organization & strategy, finds that programs intended to motivate employees with non-financial awards can actually end up costing firms in terms of lost productivity.

employee_of_the_month_award_golden_trophy_photosculpture-ree4af753fb804e8b84cdfd4016c2b220_x7saw_8byvr_512Timothy Gubler, who earned his PhD at Olin, is an assistant professor of management at the University of California, Riverside, School of Business Administration (UCR), and the lead author on the study that was recently accepted for publication in the journal Organization Science, “Motivational Spillovers from Awards: Crowding Out in a Multitasking Environment.” According to a news release from UCR:

“This is the first academic study to show that seemingly innocuous non-financial award programs can be costly to firms, primarily because they can upset the status quo and influence perceptions of equity and fairness. This can lead to internally motivated employees becoming disenfranchised.”

Ian Larkin from the University of California, Los Angeles, is a co-author on the study.

Link to the news release.

Image: by Ron Klein. Tim Gubler and Lamar Pierce in OlinBusiness Magazine 2015.


If you schedule leisure activities the same way you schedule meetings or doctor appointments, you may not be having much fun. That’s the conclusion of new research from Selin Malkoc, associate professor marketing, and Gabriela Tonietto, a doctoral candidate in marketing.

Malkoc thumb copy

Prof. Selin Malkoc

Malkoc and Tonietto conducted 13 studies examining how scheduling leisure activities affects the way these events are experienced. The research showed that assigning a specific date and time for leisure can have the opposite intended effect, making it feel much like a chore. Additionally, the researchers found that both the anticipation of the leisure activity and enjoyment from it decreased once it was scheduled.

“Looking at a variety of different leisure activities, we consistently find that scheduling can make these otherwise fun tasks feel more like work and decrease how much we enjoy them,” Tonietto said.

Gabriela Tonietto

Gabriela Tonietto

While the research shows less scheduling is a good thing when it comes to fun, Tonietto and Malkoc stress people still need to hang onto their calendars.

A host of past research has shown that scheduling and planning is important in getting things done,” Malkoc said. “This work mostly examined non-leisure tasks, such as getting a flu shot. In our work, we find that this is also true for leisure tasks — that is, scheduling indeed increases our chances of engaging in them. But, on the flip side, we tend to enjoy it less.

“So it really is a balancing game, and it comes down to knowing what you will gain and lose when we schedule fun activities,” Malkoc said.

Link to complete news release by Erika Ebsworth-Goold.

Link to UPI story based on this Olin research.

Financial matters are separate from health, right? Not necessarily. In a 2014 study from Olin researchers Timothy Gubler, PhD ’15 and Lamar Pierce, assoc. professor of strategy, discovered a correlation between physical health and financial health. Specifically, the pair found that employees’ poor physical health is driven by the same psychological factors that determine whether they contribute to a workplace retirement plan. In the study, employees who contributed regularly to their 401(k) were not only more likely to take steps to improve their health, but also had a 27 percent improvement in their blood test scores.

Link to article in Workforce Management
“Today’s Wellness: Sound Body, Mind & Finances”

Link to related news release