Smith recognizes faculty and student for research excellence

Posted on November 28, 2017

Professors Yu Hou (left) and Anton Ovchinnikov (right) were presented with their 2017 Smith School of Business Research Excellence Awards during a special reception held Nov. 20.
Professors Yu Hou (left) and Anton Ovchinnikov (right) were presented with their 2017 Smith School of Business Research Excellence Awards during a special reception held Nov. 20.

Kingston, ON — Anton Ovchinnikov, Distinguished Faculty Professor of Management Science and Operations Management, and Yu Hou, Assistant Professor of Accounting, are recipients of the 2017 Smith School of Business Research Excellence Awards.

Professor Ovchinnikov was awarded the Research Achievement Award, and Professor Hou, the New Researcher Achievement Award.

The two were selected by a committee of Smith scholars that annually assesses the achievements of the school’s researchers. On the committee this year were Yuri Levin, Pam Murphy and Veikko Thiele. In addition to the recognition, the honourees received grants to support their research.

Anton Ovchinnikov

Big data has meant big change in all areas of society, including academia. It’s certainly added an extra dimension to Anton Ovchinnikov’s research. Anton’s focus is management science and operations management, particularly where they intersect with marketing and economics. In the three years since Anton arrived at Smith, data has become a more powerful tool. “My primary research is to postulate models of economic behaviour,” he says. “The way these models are informed and calibrated is much more data driven today.”

One of his current projects, supported by a SSHRC grant, looks at how well loyalty programs maximize a firm’s profit and create customer value. He is developing a framework to explore the integrative challenge of managing customer relationships in conjunction with other business decisions.

Anton appreciates the camaraderie of the Smith MSOM group. It’s an environment in which he can do the things he most enjoys about scholarly research: technical research and communicating findings.

“It’s often assumed that junior researchers are more technical and senior researchers somewhat more strategic,” says Anton. “I’m somewhere in the middle, but I still enjoy the very technical work a lot. Typically, I would be the one to come up with the initial model and play with it to see if it captures the situation.”

Anton likes to go deep into computer coding and even learned a new programming language during his sabbatical at INSEAD in 2016-17. He also enjoys writing the research story. “The real beauty and impact of research comes from communicating the research findings. I have a chance to step back and think about what the work is really saying about a particular problem, and that’s exciting!” 

Yu Hou

Most academics would consider it an accomplishment to achieve one PhD. Yu Hou has two. Over five years, Yu completed his PhD in business administration from Tsinghua University in China, publishing four papers in Chinese journals in the process. He then came to Canada and completed a PhD in accounting at Rotman School of Management.

When he arrived at Smith, in 2013, Yu dove into the rich area of accounting research. Whether it’s earnings management, fraud or behavioural studies, he says accounting provides an important window on capital markets.

Yu’s claim that he’s “just starting out as a researcher,” may be overly modest: He has already successfully applied for two SSHRC Insight Development grants, one as co-investigator and another as principal investigator.

For one of those SSHRC-supported projects, Yu works with Feng Chen of the University of Toronto to study audit office switches and opinion shopping. Opinion shopping refers to companies seeking other auditors with a friendlier attitude when incumbent auditors are likely to issue unfavourable opinions. This project investigates audit office switches within the same audit firms. Yu hopes to present the first empirical evidence showing whether audit clients successfully engage in opinion shopping by switching audit offices.

In accepting the New Researcher Achievement Award, Yu gave a shout-out to his colleagues at Smith and the school’s supportive research environment. “It’s something I really appreciate,” he says. “Compared to other schools, the support we receive here is tremendous.”

Budding Research Excellence

Smith has a terrific cadre of doctoral students who are laying the groundwork for careers as independent researchers. The Research Excellence Awards program recognizes PhD students who are showing outstanding progress.

Nominees are adjudicated by the Graduate Committee for Business. Recipients receive $1,500.

The New PhD Student Research Excellence Award recognizes a PhD student whose academic progress and demonstrated research potential during the pre-comprehensive exam stage of the PhD program is acknowledged as outstanding. This year’s recipient is Anika Cloutier.

“I am constantly asking questions. In fact, my friends sometimes call me Anika P.I. (private investigator) because of my ceaseless need to uncover and understand all the dimensions of a situation, the processes in a story and the players in a game. To me, conducting research is the ultimate playground. One is not only encouraged to ask questions, but is given the opportunity to receive answers."

Anika’s doctoral research spans the topics of leadership, mental health and interpersonal relationships. She says her past work demonstrated that people expect leaders at work to have better mental health than non-leaders. Yet, in reality, leaders are just as likely to suffer from mental illness — and may be less likely to do anything about it.

Anika is thankful to Smith for having the award in place for graduate students. “I truly appreciate the lessons taught by my professors, the support offered by the graduate office staff and the encouragement from my fellow students. Most importantly, I am grateful to my supervisor, Dr. [Julian] Barling, for constantly inspiring me, supporting my learning and encouraging me to ask questions.”

Tags: Faculty, Research