BHP senior Abhishek Ramchandani always knew he wanted to teach. After graduating, he will be pursuing a PhD in Accounting at the University of Texas at Austin. “The reason I first got into research was because I knew that I liked teaching. I looked at what would get me a teaching job. The answer was a PhD, and PhDs do research. So I realized that in order to start teaching, I would need to start doing research.”
Over the past four years, Ramchandani has indeed amassed a wealth of research experience across the fields of sociology, finance, MIS, and strategy. “As I started delving deeper, I realized that research is incredibly important. This connection is a little hard to see in business. Cancer research makes sense because cancer is a daily problem that people have, and we want to cure it. With accounting research, you have to wonder how it really changes the world,” says Ramchandani. “Yet, the real reason accounting research is important is because it redraws those lines that our economic society works on. We hold comments and beliefs that society is supposed to interact a certain way, that the economy is going to work a certain way, and that accounting information comes out a certain way. Research helps us look at how people are doing with the current state the world is in, and it tells us what is effective. We can redraw those boundaries. I have always thought research is really cool because you are extending the boundaries of what humanity knows and helping people lead better lives, even though it might not be super tangible.”
For students who may be interested in research, Ramchandani recommends reaching out to faculty, and going for it. “Freshman year, when I first started, I was looking to get into a finance project. I applied and didn’t get the position. I was very crestfallen. At the time, I was also in my sociology class for the core requirements. One day after class, I went up to my professor and told her I thought she was doing some really cool stuff, and then I asked if she would take me on. That’s all it took. We went to her office, talked for a while, and she told me that I had the necessary math skills but that my coding wasn’t up to par. So she gave me the resources I needed to learn.”
Through his experience as a research assistant, Ramchandani can attest that help is never far away. “Professors are so willing to help if you ask them. It’s important, however, to read their research – don’t just reach out to someone because they’re hiring. If you like their research and can talk meaningfully about it, professors will love it. I made sure that whoever I was reaching out to, I was reading their research and really, truly enjoyed it. You need to know what you’re talking about. If you come on for a year-long project and don’t think what they’re doing is interesting, you probably aren’t going to apply yourself to the work.”
Ramchandani has also honed several important skills through his time in research. “I wrote a case for Professor Hannah and he gave it back with a thousand edits. I rewrote it so many times. I learned how to write better, and more academically. Now when I am writing case reports or audit documents, I know how to write just the right amount to get all the information across but not lose the reader to boredom.” Another skill he learned was how to critically reason. “Research definitely helps you make connections between areas,” says Ramchandani. “I’ve learned to parse statements which are complex but perhaps logically flawed. Sometimes logical fallacies can be said in a way where you believe them simply because of the way they are said.” He believes the best skill he developed though is the ability to tell a story. “Research can be a particularly drab story. It’s a lot of data and numbers, and nobody’s going to delve into your numbers and models unless you can tell them why they should care about it. When I was working with these top-level researchers at McCombs, what I learned from them was how to be infectious with my passion.”
Ramchandani will be continuing his passion for research and teaching McCombs as a PhD student, but he is grateful for his years in BHP, and the skills he learned in the program, which he was able to apply to his research as an undergraduate.