Texas Tech University

Ph.D. Student Spotlight: Xu Niu

August 25, 2017 | By: Kaitlin York 

Xu Niu

Why did you chose to pursue your Ph.D. at the Rawls College?

The Rawls College of Business provides a world-class, doctoral-level education. The finance faculty at the Rawls College are actively engaged in research spanning a wide range of finance-related areas. The Ph.D. in Business Administration with a concentration in finance allows students the flexibility to tailor coursework which enabled me to also earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics.

What do you like most about the Rawls College Ph.D. program?

What I like most about the Rawls College Ph.D. program is the positive, student-friendly environment. Pursuing a Ph.D. can be stressful, but is much less stressful when the faculty members support you. The staff is always willing to help and colleagues are not competitors but coauthors.

What research projects have you worked on and why did you chose them?

As a Ph.D. student in finance, I have been working on several research projects in corporate finance with a focus on founder family firms and shareholder voting. With my background in mathematics, I also work on the intersection of finance and mathematics, in particular, the role of mathematics in financial education. The first reason I chose these projects is because they are interesting and important research questions, both in academic literature and in real practice. However, this is certainly not enough to turn a research idea into a research paper. Many of my research projects benefit from collaboration with coauthors both in finance and in other fields, as well as the generous financial support on research, from the Rawls College of Business and other departments at Texas Tech University.

How has the team-oriented culture of the program benefited you as a student?

Every incoming Ph.D. student enters the Rawls College Ph.D. program with a different educational background; thus, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The team-oriented culture of the program allows the doctoral students—in particular students from different areas of specialization—to learn from each other. I believe it is a very effective way of learning. Some of my colleague Ph.D. students later become my coauthors, which is also a more effective way of doing research.

What has been your experience with interdisciplinary collaboration and how has it enhanced your research?

I have been enjoying working with faculty members and Ph.D. students from many fields, e.g., accounting, economics, mathematics, and statistics. Many of these people become my coauthors. The importance of interdisciplinary collaboration cannot be exaggerated. Perhaps discussing how it "enhanced" my research has already underestimated its importance. In fact, many of my research ideas are initiated or developed by talking with faculty members or Ph.D. students from other fields.

How have your interactions been with faculty at the Rawls College and how have those interactions benefited you?

One thing I really like about the Rawls College Ph.D. program is that the faculty is committed to mentoring students but not commanding students. On the one hand, the professors are always willing and available to help, and we do not feel a disconnect between professors and doctoral students. On the other hand, the faculty members also know when and how to help. For example, instead of telling students what to do exactly, the faculty members often encourage critical thinking on our own first. Therefore, I often feel that the professors are my coaches or personal trainers in research. I believe it is also very important for a Ph.D.-level education, because otherwise the doctoral students could never grow into independent researchers in the future.

How has the Rawls College supported you as a developing researcher and teacher?

The support from the Rawls College not only comes from the great faculty members who are always willing to help, but also comes from the great financial support. The Rawls College provides generous research grants to support Ph.D. students' research. On the teaching side, the Rawls College Ph.D. program incorporates teaching as one of the essential parts of doctoral-level education. Therefore, I have had the opportunities to teach different courses in many semesters. I was also honored to become the first instructor of a newly designed course (FIN 3319) at the Rawls College and contributed to the course development.