Faculty and students recognized for their research

Posted on January 6, 2022

Clockwise from left to right: Wei Wang, Distinguished Professor of Finance; Alyssa Grocutt, MSc,’21, PhD’25; Cecilia Ying, MMA’19 MSc’20, PhD’25; Jue Wang, Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Management Analytics; and Stephanie Kelley, BCom’12, MMA’17, PhD’22.
Clockwise from left to right: Wei Wang, Distinguished Professor of Finance; Alyssa Grocutt, MSc,’21, PhD’25; Cecilia Ying, MMA’19 MSc’20, PhD’25; Jue Wang, Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Management Analytics; and Stephanie Kelley, BCom’12, MMA’17, PhD’22.

Kingston, Ont. – Two Smith School of Business faculty and three PhD students have won awards for research.

Among faculty, Wei Wang received the school’s 2021 Award for Research Excellence. Jue Wang won the New Researcher Achievement Award.

Among students, Stephanie Kelley received the 2021 PhD Student Research Excellence Award. Alyssa Grocutt and Cecilia Ying each won a New PhD Student Research Excellence Award.

Faculty awards

Wei Wang, winner of the Award for Research Excellence, is the Distinguished Professor of Finance at Smith and director of the school’s Master of Finance-Beijing program.

He studies corporate financial distress, bankruptcy and reorganization. “A financially distressed firm can be thought of as a very sick patient and the bankruptcy court as an intensive care unit,” he says.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Financial Economics, Wang and a team of researchers examined efficiency in U.S. corporate bankruptcies. Specifically, they studied how a senior creditor and junior creditor bargain with each other. They found that if both creditors do not possess private information, the average payout to creditors goes up by four per cent. Payouts rise another 18 per cent if a neutral agent known as a social planner is appointed. Overall, Wang and his colleagues identified several inefficiencies in the bankruptcy process that, if removed, would cut time in court by 73 per cent.

The New Researcher Achievement Award recognizes the work of a pre-tenure faculty member. Jue Wang, the 2021 recipient, is the Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Management Analytics.

His research examines real-time prescriptive analytics. “I develop methodologies and algorithms that turn messy real-time data into high-quality decisions,” he says.

For example, a recent paper of his published in Operations Research revealed a solution to a long-standing decision problem called the “quickest multi-class classification”. That solution can be used to quickly diagnose Parkinson’s disease. “I showed that the new method can be twice as fast as the existing approach in reaching an accurate diagnosis.”

Student awards

Stephanie Kelley, BCom’12, MMA’17, PhD’22, winner of the PhD Student Research Excellence Award, studies the ethics of analytics and artificial intelligence.

“As the use of analytics and AI grows across organizations, so too does the risk for ethical issues,” she says. “I hope that through my work I can help organizations grow their use of AI and analytics in a way that benefits society and minimizes these ethical risks.”

A paper Kelley wrote with Anton Ovchinnikov, Distinguished Professor of Management Analytics, examined anti-discrimination laws and gender bias in fintech lending. The pair found that anti-discrimination laws in certain legal jurisdictions can actually increase gender discrimination. And they suggested ways to reduce the ethical risks when AI helps make lending decisions.

Alyssa Grocutt, MSc,’21, PhD’25, winner of the New PhD Student Research Excellence Award, studies workplace safety.

She’s currently looking at the consequences of work injuries on family, friends and colleagues of victims. “This is a personal passion of mine as my dad died in a workplace safety incident when I was 11 years old,” she says. “I have been driven to promote workplace safety ever since.”

Grocutt recently co-wrote a paper called “The Next Best Safety Dollar: Using Evidence to Decide How to Invest in Workplace Safety.”

Cecilia Ying, MMA’19 MSc’20, PhD’25, also won the New PhD Student Research Excellence Award. Her research looks at the societal impacts of large language models in natural language processing tasks used in machine translation, text summarization, text generation and similar applications.

“I believe there is an urgent need to produce research that sparks public awareness and provides practical solutions to quantify and evaluate the societal benefit and harm for practitioners looking to take advantage of powerful machine learning and artificial intelligence tools,” she says.

As an example, Ying is developing a practical solution to improve fairness in credit-lending models.

In receiving their awards, all three students thanked to their faculty supervisors: Steve Thomas (Ying); Julian Barling (Grocutt); and Anton Ovchinnikov and Yuri Levin (Kelley).

The 2021 research award winners were chosen by committees made up of Smith professors. Tina Dacin, Bertrand Malsch and Ryan Riordan sat on the faculty awards committee. Elaheh Fata, Yu Hou, Evan Dudley and Blake Steenhoven were on the student awards committee.