When we think of research, we tend to imagine a begoggled lab tech in a white coat, squinting into a microscope. But the NYU Stern Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), gives students the opportunity to engage in academic business research to better understand organizations and industries. “SPUR has been so rewarding,” says Paige Bui. She’s a Stern senior majoring in Business with concentrations in management and finance. “If you told me in my first year that I’d want to do research, I would have laughed it off. But here I am telling everyone to do it because it’s so intellectually stimulating. By staying open to different opportunities, you can learn more about your own interests.”
Curiosity + Commitment = Research Success
For the past two semesters, Paige has conducted business research alongside L. Taylor Phillips, an assistant professor of management and organizations at Stern. Their research focuses on issues of diversity, allyship, and inequality across organizations. Professor Phillips previously worked as a research assistant, so when she joined NYU’s faculty, she immediately got involved with SPUR. “Research assistants notice things I might not have noticed and pull in other ideas. Plus, they increase our enthusiasm. They’re curious and ask so many questions, so even if we’ve been working on a project for several years, it reinvigorates us,” she says.
As a SPUR research assistant, Paige coded participant responses, compiled literature reviews, and assembled key themes. Additionally, she attended biweekly lab meetings during which Professor Phillips answered questions and shared her insights on the research process. Says Paige, “Joining Professor Phillips’s research team seemed like the obvious choice for me. I got to work alongside my favorite professor while studying fairness and equity, which has always interested me. I enjoyed my time in the lab so much that I joined for two consecutive semesters.”
Research for Everyone and Everyone for Research
“Everyone’s better off with a program like SPUR. As a faculty, we’re very committed to research, and many of us are pursuing amazing research projects. Then, we’ve got a set of students who, given the opportunity, would find research very interesting and valuable,” explains Dean Robert Whitelaw at NYU Stern and the Edward C. Johnson 3d Professor of Entrepreneurial Finance. “That’s why SPUR works.”
Each semester, faculty members post business research opportunities on the SPUR database, and students apply to any that interest them. Depending on the time commitment, a project counts as one or two credits. Furthermore, because each project has its own parameters and requirements, some have prerequisites, like being able to code or speak another language, while others only require “conscientiousness and curiosity,” in Professor Phillips’s case. “It’s really about trying new things and getting that intern-like experience. I don’t require background training, stats, or expertise because if we all required that, how would anyone ever get started?”
A Project for Every Business
In addition to Professor Phillips’s research, SPUR projects run the gamut from financial or historical to technical. For the spring 2022 semester, business research projects included:
- Using natural language processing to forecast the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) rating for unrated companies.
- Exploring how different generations work together and how to maximize the value of their interactions.
- Determining the effect of mergers and acquisitions on fund value based on when a merger is completed.
- Researching how the sudden demand for female labor during World War II impacted future generations and women’s involvement in scientific fields.
Get Ready for What’s Next
Conducting business research can prepare you for graduate school and a variety of research-related careers. But more than that, it sharpens key skills that are vital to success across roles and industries. First, students work alongside top-tier faculty, building their network and learning from top minds in the business world. Second, “working on these research projects hones your problem-solving skills, critical-thinking skills, and analytical skills,” explains Dean Whitelaw. “Sure, research is cool, but out there in the world, the set of skills you hone by doing research is incredibly valuable—even if the kind of job you take is not what we’d think of as a pure research job.” Concludes Paige, “I used to feel so uncertain about which field to go into. I cannot say enough about how SPUR has helped me find my place at Stern and solidify my career goals.”