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Meet Xiaoxue Zhang, Ivey PhD candidate

May 2, 2022

Xiaoxue Zhang

Ivey PhD Candidate, Xiaoxue Zhang

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: Xiaoxue Zhang, PhD Candidate

With a background in mathematics, Xiaoxue Zhang found her passion for management science at Ivey. Focused on sustainable energy, Zhang hopes to contribute to a future with less waste and pollution through energy-sharing practices.

With the women in her family, particularly her grandmother, as inspiration and role models, Zhang proves that women can excel in historically male-dominated research areas.

Q&A with Xiaoxue Zhang

What attracted you to Ivey’s program?

Ivey has a thriving community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni from a wide array of backgrounds. When I was applying to various PhD programs, I had some meaningful conversations with my current supervisors, Associate Professors Hubert Pun and Bissan Ghaddar. I was thrilled to discover that we share common research interests. I also knew from current students that Ivey’s PhD program has a very welcoming and cooperative culture. Faculty members are always accessible and responsive to students.

What is your research focus?

I am interested in co-opetition, counterfeiting products, how blockchain can be used as an enterprise solution, as well as problems at the intersection of smart cities and optimization models. I mainly use game theory model to study topics of interest. My first research project focuses on the impact of shared community energy storage on global energy allocation and optimization.

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

Distributed energy resources have been playing an increasingly important role in smart grids. Distributed energy resources consist primarily of energy generation and storage systems utilized by individual households or shared among various households as a community. It is widely believed that energy sharing, the practice of sharing the leftover energy of some households, has the potential to significantly reduce waste and pollution by transferring and using energy more efficiently. We examine how energy sharing is organized, how marketing price and all kinds of costs of energy sharing are affected, and in which situations energy sharing will be offered as a peer-to-peer (P2P) service versus a business-to-consumer (B2C) service.

How do you see your research making an impact?

In the future, I hope to provide new insights for individuals, sharing platforms, and public power grids. Hopefully, the findings will have implications for firm-level global energy strategies and government policies and promote the development of a cleaner and fairer energy future.

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

Research findings have implications for firm-level global strategies and government decision-making. Successful entrepreneurs can use related research to keep up with trends, make better business decisions, and maintain their company’s competitive edge. At the same time, global government officials need to adjust and make better decisions and policies from market trends and research results.

What previous experience prepared you for this?

The courses I took during my undergrad gave me a solid foundation of mathematical and statistical theory. I actively participated in different research groups focused on mathematical modeling, algebraic combinatorics, and mathematical statistics. This not only helped me go deeper into some practical topics, but also cultivated my passion for research. As a master’s student, I started to become familiar with some research in operations management and optimization modeling. This was the start of discovering my current research area and preparing for my PhD research.

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

I was born and grew up in Liaoning, in the northeast part of China. The climate is similar to Toronto and there are four distinct seasons. The food, especially barbecue, and the bathing customs there are unique. I fondly miss them.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

All the women in my family, especially my grandmother. She is a wise, generous, and powerful woman. She has strongly supported all of my pursuits and taught me to be strong, independent, and always curious about the world.

In addition, Professor Keyu Jin of the London School of Economics, is one of my role models. Since learning about her at age 19, I became interested in some economic problems and have made various attempts in more practical research areas beyond mathematics. I aspire to be an excellent and charismatic scholar like Professor Jin.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

Classical music and literature are integral parts of my entire life. I have played violin since childhood. Every time I feel overwhelmed, music can always cure me. In my freshman year, I majored in English Language and Literature. It was the beginning of my love for all kinds of fiction.

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

I usually let the classical and pop music lists on Apple Music or Spotify play randomly, but what I listened to most often recently was Willow by Taylor Swift.

What is your best podcast recommendation?

How I Built This with Guy Raz. This podcast weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the movements they built.

I also enjoy LSE: Public Lectures and Events, which helps me stay aware of current affairs.

What book would you recommend to others? Why?

Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter: It’s an amazing collection of short stories based on fairy tales, folk tales, and literary classics. I like to call them classics combining fantasy literature and feminism.

Neapolitan Novels (L'amica Genial 1-4) by Elena Ferrante: A story of separation, reunion, and growth between two poor urban girls. It’s a definite feminist work that explores women's perspectives on marriage, love, careers, the body, and anxiety. I believe women will find resonance and inspiration from it, and men will know more about the dilemma of women’s living and growing.

In Search of Lost Time (À la Recherche du Temps Perdu) by Marcel Proust: A famous text written in the stream of consciousness. It includes childhood memories, family life, observations of historical events, and so forth. Reading it at different ages always provides new insights.

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

Don’t be shy, reach out to everyone you are interested in, and discuss some interesting ideas or topics, in both life and research. Keep regular conversations and exchange gifts on important days with old friends and family.

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