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Interdisciplinary efforts in graduate education
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UD partners with JPMorgan Chase to share research expertise
Assistant professor Harry Wang and graduate research assistant Lilly Chandran conducted research for JPMorgan Chase. [Photo taken at the new JPMorgan Chase Innovation Center at UD, in Purnell Hall, by Ambre Alexander.]
In 2010, UD became the second academic institution in the country to join forces with global financial services firm JPMorgan Chase. The partnership, modeled after the one JPMorgan Chase began with Syracuse University a few years ago, consists of a number of components, including internships, curriculum development, joint research and a speaker series.
"It's simple, really," observed UD President Pat Harker during his introduction of the new partnership. "We can't prepare students for 21st-century jobs if we don't partner with the companies creating them. And companies can't continue to compete globally without a workforce that's ready to roll from day one."
Even before the partnership's official kick-off announcement in March, about 30 UD faculty had already visited JPMorgan Chase offices and shadowed employees for a day. Looking closely at the company's IT functions, processes and technology, faculty were challenged to suggest techniques or methodologies to study and resolve business problems that were identified through the site visits.
A win-win proposal
Harry Wang is an assistant professor of management information systems in UD's Lerner College of Business and Economics who participated in the job-shadowing, and submitted several research ideas through a matching process coordinated by the Lerner College and JPMorgan.
"I think partnering with companies on research projects is a win-win situation," Wang says. "Companies can reduce risk in exploration of new technology, gain innovative solutions to their IT challenges, and enhance their visibility on campus."
One of Wang's accepted proposals involved using process mining techniques to analyze the performance of a complex software application used by the bank. Process mining involves analyzing data found in event logs of an information system, and can be useful in discovering how a system is functioning, showing process flow, average process time and possible bottlenecks in processing.
Conducting research in real-world business situations creates additional benefits for both faculty and students, said Wang. "Faculty can obtain valuable enterprise data in a secure manner for research, and have opportunities to validate their research results with real business problems. Students can also gain hands-on experience in a real world environment and improve their research skills."
Adds Wang, "Since our collaboration, I've been able to invite several JPMorgan Chase professionals to serve as guest lecturers in my classes, giving students the opportunity to hear from working professionals in fields relevant to their area of study, who can provide concrete validation and illustrations for the theoretical concepts they're learning in class."
Completing the circle, said Wang, was that as a result of firsthand knowledge gained from working with researchers and professionals at JPMorgan Chase through real business issues, ideas for potential future research and investigation presented themselves almost automatically.
The best experience
Lilly Chandran is a second-year MBA student who served as one of the graduate research assistants for the process mining study. " The opportunity to participate in such an important research project has been by far the best experience I have gained as a graduate student. It allowed me to apply both my past experience and skills as well as align with what I was learning in the MBA program here at UD. It was not just a technical project, but it also gave me great insight into corporate work culture, from the beginning until the very end, when we presented JPMorgan with the results and a complete set of project deliverables."
"Participating in this research project has had a tremendous impact on my resume and career growth," says Chandran, adding that in a recent interview, prospective employers were primarily interested in discussing one specific item listed on her resume, and that was her experience working with JPMorgan Chase.
Also working on the project was UD graduate student in electrical and computer engineering Bonan Huang, who has since graduated and is now a senior data analyst in the financial services industry.
Future research ideas emerge
With an eye toward developing similar joint projects, other UD faculty members eager to match their skills to JPMorgan Chase's technology needs turned out for an April 2011 research expo at the company's Morgan Christiana Center in Newark.
More than 100 JPMorgan Chase professionals from various technology units also attended. " The expo is by far the largest research exchange between UD and JPMorgan Chase to date," noted Bintong Chen, UD professor of business administration and associate dean for research in UD's Lerner College of Business and Economics, who helped facilitate the event from the University side. "I expect a boom of joint research proposals in the coming months."