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Meet Hongmei Sun, Ivey PhD candidate

  • Communications
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  • Feb 10, 2020
Meet Hongmei Sun, Ivey PhD candidate

Ivey’s PhD Program in Business Administration is a full-time research-based program designed to develop scholars and to place graduates at high quality research universities around the world. Our PhD candidates are showcased at conferences around the world, and regularly featured in top-tier academic and industry publications.

To help you get to know them, we’ve asked them about their academic and personal interests.

Get to know: Hongmei Sun, PhD candidate

Hongmei Sun grew up in Dalian, China. Before coming to Ivey, she studied at Keio University in Japan and Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in China. While in her masters program at Keio University, she went on exchange at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Sun spoke to us about everything from her childhood interest in outer space and her travel to various countries, to her latest research on how to address drug shortages.

Q&A with Hongmei Sun

1. What attracted you to Ivey’s program?

I first came to London, Ont. with my husband when he was a postdoc in the Engineering department at Western University. I did some research on PhD programs in Canada after our arrival. I found that Ivey is one of the best business schools in Canada and the world, and is famous for its teaching and research excellence. Studying at Ivey is a great opportunity to pursue a PhD as a stepping stone for my career. It has also been a pleasant experience to immerse myself in Canadian culture.

2. What is your research focus?

My research focuses on health-care decision-making problems using Operations Research and Management Science approaches. My PhD dissertation studies drug-related problems using Supply Chain Management and Game Theoretic frameworks. The topics include new drug reimbursement schemes between pharmaceutical companies and payers, and mitigating methods for drug shortages and the impact on patient welfare and private sectors.

3. Why is that area appealing to you? What big problems/issues need to be addressed?

In recent years, the ever-increasing health-care expenditure has become a serious issue in many countries. On one hand, new and expensive drugs pose a significant pressure to many health-care systems, due to the high price and also because of the significant uncertainties of the effectiveness and sales volume of the new drugs. On the other hand, the low price of many generic drugs leads to drug shortages. This is due to the low profit margin and low incentive of manufacturing those drugs and investing on the production lines.

I am interested in the interaction between pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders, such as hospitals and government agencies. My PhD research investigates solutions to these problems, and intends to make a contribution to the business world as well as academic literature.

4. How do you see your research making an impact?

My research investigates important and relevant issues in the real world, and the solutions remain insufficiently investigated. My studies analyze the problems and evaluate different solutions using methodologies in my major area. The results shed light on the problems and provide insights into optimal solutions in different situations. I have presented my studies at different levels of conferences and am submitting them to peer-reviewed journals. I hope to make a larger impact in the real world to inform optimal decision-making in the future.

5. How do you see research as an aid to business improvement?

Not all companies and stakeholders have the sophisticated analytical skills for business improvement. My research provides theoretical foundations and implementations for companies, hospitals, and policy-makers. For example, my study on new drug reimbursement schemes compares the performance of different types of schemes, and finds the conditions under which both pharmaceutical companies and payers would benefit from the same scheme. This could help both parties make the optimal decision on the selection of schemes, and contribute to business improvement.

6. What previous experience prepared you for this?

I received my master’s degree in System Design and Management from Keio University in Japan. During my masters program, I also studied at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands for five months as an exchange student. These study experiences equipped me with the capability of conducting rigorous research. I also learned critical thinking, how to communicate with people from different backgrounds, and English-language skills.

7. Where did you grow up and what was it like there?

I was born and grew up in Dalian, which is a modern port city in Northeast China. With a population of more than six million, Dalian is a financial, shipping, and logistics centre for Northeast Asia. My hometown is famous for its beautiful scenery, multiple beaches, pleasant climate with four distinct seasons, seafood, and soccer. It attracts many tourists every year.

8. Who have been your strongest influences in life?

The most influential person in my life is my husband. Without him, I would have likely found a decent job after completing my undergraduate program and stayed in my hometown my whole life. That would have been nice, but also a different type of lifestyle for me. My husband encouraged me to go abroad and pursue higher degrees of education. I’ve had so many wonderful life experiences in different countries with him.

Other people also influenced me significantly. I must mention my supervisors: Professor Greg Zaric and Associate Professor Hubert Pun (my current PhD supervisors), Professor Ryuichi Teshima (my master supervisor at Keio University in Japan), and Professor Gento Mogi (my research student supervisor at the University of Tokyo in Japan). I am very fortunate that all of my supervisors helped me with my study and are also my mentors for life.

9. What do you like to do outside of the PhD program?

I used to like to play badminton, tennis, table tennis, squash, and to swim during my spare time. Now I have a three-year-old son. Ever since he was born, I enjoy playing with him in my spare time.

10. What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I am originally from China, and my native language is Mandarin. My second language is Japanese, and I did my masters study and wrote and defended my masters thesis using Japanese. When I first entered the masters program in Japan, I could not speak English very well. To improve my English, I applied for an exchange program with the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. I had the opportunity to go on exchange and improve my English during my five-month exchange. Thanks to that experience, I am now able to pursue my PhD degree in an English-language environment.

11. What is the most played song on your playlist as of now?

The most played song on my playlist as of now is Yellow Submarine by the Beatles, since my son loves singing it. This is the most mature song on my playlist, which is mostly nursery rhymes.

12. What book would you recommend to others? Why?

My recent favourite book is The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Cixin Liu. I don’t have much time to read books for a hobby – doing so is a luxury for a PhD student with a three-year-old son. During my childhood, I was very interested in outer space and loved watching videos and reading books about it. I was fascinated by stars millions of light years away from us, and the mysterious alien lives. This book also explores alien life. I found it to be very engaging and wildly imaginative. I managed to find time to read all three books in Liu's series.