When it comes to a discipline like economics, it’s not always easy for a researcher to pinpoint where her original interest in the topic began.
For Dr. Ying Wu, an assistant professor at the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology, it all started with snow.
As a girl growing up in southern China, she dreamed of living somewhere cold enough to snow, which was the main reason she chose to study at Peking University, in Beijing — home to a highly competitive economics program.
“I still remember the first time I saw the snow in Beijing — it was like living in another, wonderful world,” Dr. Wu said.
The snow may have attracted her to Beijing, but she thought economics might be a good fit for her. A Math Olympics winner in high school, she saw a chance to apply her skills at a time when China was beginning to emerge as a global player.
“The time I was going to college turned out to be a really critical stage for the Chinese economy, with all its development and the lifting of barriers, which were crucial in terms of its economic development,” Dr. Wu said. “That really drove my interest in economics from the beginning.”
Dr. Wu has made a career of that interest, specializing in international finance, with a focus on asset pricing — helping investors accurately determine a company’s value. In April, a paper she wrote on the topic was featured in the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, an FT 50 publication.
'We don't agree with either model'
Her paper, which she published with Dr. G. Andrew Karolyi, proposes a multifactor model for pricing international stocks.
“The previous studies we looked at had two methodologies on asset pricing — a purely integrated scenario, with no barriers between countries, and isolated islands, where there’s no way to trade stocks with other countries,” Dr. Wu said. “The starting point of the paper is, we don’t agree with either model, so this is our attempt to find something in the middle, which is more closely aligned with the markets today.”
“I think Stevens is unique for our ability to look at this much data at once and be able to analyze it in detail.”
In developing their model, Dr. Wu and Dr. Karolyi evaluated monthly returns for more than 37,000 stocks from 46 developed and emerging countries over a period of two decades. Dr. Wu said the ability to do that kind of data analysis is why she’s so happy to be at Stevens.
“The quantity of stocks available today, and the different political and economic platforms that go along with all those exchanges, made our questions more interesting to ask, but more challenging to answer,” Dr. Wu said. “At Stevens, we’re good at using our strength in technology, our strength in data, to ask these kinds of questions. I think Stevens is unique for our ability to look at this much data at once and be able to analyze it in detail.”
Dr. Wu’s collaborator, Dr. Karolyi, was also her advisor when she was a Ph.D. student at Cornell University. They have published together in the past; Dr. Wu won the John A. Doukas Best Doctoral Paper Award from the European Financial Management Association under her advisor’s tutelage in 2013. An internationally respected scholar in investment management, Dr. Karolyi was an enormous influence on his protégé.
“When I was thinking about my future in academia, he said, ‘I know you enjoy research, and I know you enjoy teaching — so you need to find a school that will appreciate your research contributions while helping you develop your teaching skills,’ ” Dr. Wu said. “And I feel so lucky to be at Stevens, where I get so much support from the deans to teach topics like international finance and international economics.”