Stars on the rise

By Tamara Heath

Two Faculty of Business and Economics PhD students have won international recognition for their research, giving their budding academic careers a huge boost.

All the blood, sweat and tears is already paying off for Management and Marketing students Renfei Gao and Ozlem Ozkok after they won top international awards for their PhD research.

For Renfei, a third-year student, two of his papers were judged to be among the best of those to be presented at the next Academy of Management Annual Meeting, to be held in Atlanta in August.

It is an honour reserved for only the top 10 per cent of accepted papers, and means abridged versions of his work will be published in the meeting’s proceedings.

PhD student Ozlem Ozkok
PhD student Ozlem Ozkok

Meanwhile, Ozlem, also a third-year PhD student, was one of six winners of this year’s Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Review / Sheth Foundation Doctoral Competition for Conceptual Articles.

Ozlem’s entry was selected from a competitive pool of 76 applicants from across the world, with her prize including $1000 cash and the opportunity to present her work at the AMS Doctoral Colloquium in San Diego in May.

She has also been invited to submit a conceptual paper for publication in the journal AMS Review.

Both students credit their early success to the support and encouragement of their supervisors and colleagues.

Renfei is researching behavioural decision-making in emerging markets, with a particular focus on China – his birth country and where he completed his undergraduate qualifications.

One of his winning papers - 'A Contextualized Behavioural Model of Technological Search in Weak Institutions,' - is co-authored with his supervising professors - Management and Marketing Department professors Jane Lu and Helen Hu and the Melbourne Business School’s Associate Professor Geoff Martin.

PhD student Renfei Gao
PhD student Renfei Gao

The paper, exploring research and development in Chinese manufacturing firms, is based on the first part of Renfei’s thesis, which was last year judged the best PhD paper in Management and Marketing.

His other winning paper - 'Explorative or Exploitative? How Local Firms Respond to Foreign Direct Investment Presence by Innovation Adaptation' - is co-authored with Associate Professor Andre Sammartino, and explores the influence of foreign entities on innovation within local firms across China.

Renfei, who will also present a third paper at the meeting, says he is surprised and delighted by the accolades but he could not have done it alone.

My supervisors spent so much time discussing my ideas and findings with me, as well as helping me to prepare these papers. Renfei Gao

“I still have a lot of work to do, to work through some of the issues with my paper, but I am very happy.”

Similarly, Ozlem believes it was the feedback she received from her supervisors as part of her PhD confirmation, which occurred in February, just days before competition entries were due, that enabled her to stand out from the crowd.

Ozlem, who has a background in supply chain information management, is supervised by Management and Marketing’s Professor Simon Bell and Melbourne Business School’s Associate Professor Kwanghui Lim, as well as Case Western Reserve University’s Professor Jagdip Singh.

With a long-running interest in innovation and how organisations can use it to improve their customer relations, Ozlem’s winning article theorizes about service innovation knowledge and front-line employee knowledge networks, using existing open innovation and service marketing literature, as well as social network theory.

"Chief executive officers always talk about ways of capturing the ideas of employees,” she says.

"My study proposes a framework of collaborative front-line employee networks that can be used to steer better service innovations.”

Ozlem will submit her final article to AMS Review in November, ahead of an expected publication date next year.