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PhD grad shares his journey into research

  • Communications
  • |
  • Jun 11, 2021
PhD grad shares his journey into research

Joseph Ryoo, HBA ’16, PhD ’21, is one of the outstanding graduates in the Class of 2021.

When Joseph Ryoo met Shane Wang, an associate professor of marketing, while doing his HBA at Ivey, it spurred an interest in marketing research. Ryoo went on to do his PhD at Ivey, with Wang as a supervisor and together they’ve published research revealing important consumer insights from data. Their research on how spoiler reviews impact box office performance even earned Ryoo a finalist award in the 2019 IBM Best Student Paper Award Competition. After successfully defending his thesis earlier this spring, Ryoo is on to a new adventure. He’ll start as Assistant Professor of Marketing at City University of Hong Kong in August.

In the Q&A below, learn more about Ryoo’s background, influences, and tips for staying connected in the online environment.

Q&A with Joseph Ryoo

What attracted you to Ivey’s program?

I attended Ivey as an undergraduate student studying business administration. During that time, I had the fortune of meeting Associate Professor Shane Wang as my marketing professor. He became my mentor outside the classroom when I decided to pursue academic research, and I naturally transitioned into the PhD program with Wang as my supervisor. The supportive research culture and resources at Ivey helped me greatly with this transition.

What is your research focus?

My research primarily focuses on how marketing researchers and industry practitioners can obtain new insights of consumers from unstructured data, such as texts, photos, and videos.

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

Our society is experiencing an exponential growth of data. IBM estimates that 90 per cent of the data that exists in the world today has been generated in the past two years. In these circumstances, an important issue that needs to be addressed is the variety of data types that bombards firms and organizations. Specifically, a significant portion of modern data is unstructured (e.g., product reviews, Facebook photos, YouTube videos, etc.), meaning that it is not readily quantifiable. How such data can be measured meaningfully provides ambiguity for practitioners, but a wealth of research opportunities for researchers.

How do you see your research making an impact?

My research aims to develop new metrics that can extract firm-relevant information from unstructured data. For example, how can retailers quantify the “informativeness” of online reviews to better match their products with the preferences of customers? Such metrics can help firms to increase sales, and benefit consumers that search for diagnostic product information.

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

Consumer behaviour is difficult to understand and predict, especially when society is rapidly changing culturally, politically, and technologically. Marketing as an applied discipline builds on the ideas and methodologies mainly from economics and psychology to discover generalizable theories and insights regarding firms and consumers. By incorporating new knowledge from research, decision-makers within various organizations (e.g., for-profit, non-profit, governmental) can arrive at more scientific or evidence-driven policies.

What previous experience prepared you for this?

As an undergraduate student, I had a head start working on research with my supervisor at Ivey. At the individual level, academic research requires specialized training because there are countless theories and methodologies that research questions can be used to approach. Working on research early on helped me to narrow my research interests and confront my weaknesses, enabling me to better plan which courses and literature to study in graduate school.

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

I moved to Toronto, Ont. from South Korea when I was in elementary school. As first-generational immigrants, I recall us facing several challenges. However, we found Canada to be a very welcoming country. Personally, I was fortunate to have met the friendliest and funniest kids in Toronto, and have enjoyed a normal Canadian childhood.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

Numerous people have been influential at various stages of my life, such as my parents, my supervisor, my co-authors, my professors in the PhD program, my undergraduate and PhD colleagues, and so on. It is difficult to isolate and gauge their individual effects; I can only be thankful for the opportunities and environments in which I met them in, such as Ivey.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I am an excellent StarCraft: Brood War player.

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

Every day, Every Moment by Paul Kim.

What is your best podcast recommendation?

I listen to the podcasts by The Wall Street Journal. They are great on the go when I want a brief update on the trending issues in business.

What book would you recommend to others? Why?

I recommend Lost in Math by Sabine Hossenfelder. It is written by a theoretical physicist at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. She discusses how some physicists can become overly attached to mathematical theories due to their simplistic beauty rather than their predictive power of reality. This suggests that even the most objective of scientists are susceptible to human biases. I found the book strangely awe-inspiring; whether it is the natural sciences or the social sciences, academic research is ultimately a human endeavour.

What tips have you learned for staying connected in an online learning environment?

One tip I learned is to maintain a to-do list. I feel that time flies by when working from home, given both personal and professional responsibilities. Maintaining a to-do list encourages me to have more productive meetings online, and to become less self-critical when evaluating my productivity at the end of the day.