Senior Advice

Senior Advice Series #2: Research at Wharton

Julia Bache is a senior studying Real Estate and Management, while minoring in History. She is originally from Louisville, Kentucky and looks forward to staying in Philly next year when she starts full-time at BCG. Julia has loved being a part of Wharton Women for her four years at Penn!

Just about every college tour you went on talked about research opportunities, right? You probably expected to participate in research at Penn, at least I did.

In my four years at Penn, I have had the amazing opportunity to conduct research on the financial sustainability of historic house museums. Many house museums are struggling financially. I conducted research every summer on a unique topic under the umbrella of financial sustainability. Freshman summer, I surveyed visitors to house museums around Philly about emotions they felt along the tour and how relevant they thought the history was. Sophomore summer, I studied social impact initiatives at house museums, and junior summer I analyzed mergers of historic house museums. Throughout the three summers, I collected both quantitative statistics as well as qualitative case studies. I am excited to present my work in my Wharton senior thesis.

But how do you get involved with research at Wharton? It seems like research at Wharton flies a bit more under the radar. Between classes, clubs, and recruiting, it can seem like most people are too busy for research. As a senior who has conducted research, I’ve learned a bit about how to study what you’re passionate about outside the classroom and why research is so important. Here are some tips and pieces of advice to get you started!

TIPS:

Get on the research email listserv. Yes, there is a whole listserv dedicated to helping Wharton students find research opportunities. Utsav Schurmans, the director of the Research and Scholars Programs, runs this listserv and sends out information about lots of opportunities at least once a week.

Schedule a meeting with Utsav. As the director of the Research and Scholars Programs, Utsav is the expert on research at Wharton. He sits in G95 and you can schedule an appointment with him or try to catch him on a day when he is holding walk-in hours. He can help you learn about all of Wharton’s research opportunities and point you in the right direction if you’re wondering how to get started.

Attend a research info session. We love a good info session here at the Wharton school. Luckily for you, there are info sessions focused on how to do research at Wharton. They usually take place at the beginning of the semester, but they cover the various opportunities available to students and sometimes even have panels of students who have participated in the various programs.

Ask upperclassmen about their research. There are so many upperclassmen who have done research in all capacities, departments, and times of year (summer vs. during the school year). There are veterans of the summer research programs, and JWS seniors who already wrote their theses junior year. Upperclassmen are a great resource to tap into, so ask them to tell you about their research experiences. They’ll be able to explain how they got plugged into different opportunities and give you their honest thoughts on their experience.

Explore Wharton Scholarly Commons. This online database will allow you to read research papers written by students on an extremely wide variety of topics. It can be helpful to see what students are studying and how they are sharing their data through their papers.

Apply to the program that makes the most sense for you. This probably goes without saying, but there are so many research opportunities at Wharton and at Penn in general, so choose the one that best fits your interests, curiosities, skillsets, timeline, and location. I am a part of University Scholars, which is a bit rarer for Wharton students to be a part of, but it fits my needs and interests. UScholars allows me to conduct research over the summer on a very niche and interdisciplinary topic that overlaps business and the humanities.

LESSONS I’VE LEARNED:

Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors for help. My own research has been very interdisciplinary, so I have met with professors in several different departments. I have met with several professors beyond my main advisors, but each one has helped me shape my research questions, methods, and analyses based on their own skillset and area of expertise.

Research is a great freshman or sophomore summer activity. There are several Wharton-sponsored or Penn-organized summer research opportunities that make for a great freshman or sophomore year summer. You’ll build skills and work towards findings which you can talk about when you are applying for sophomore or junior year internships. You can also do research pretty much anywhere, so you could go home, stay in Philly, or even go abroad. I conducted research my freshman year, and I spent enough time that it felt like an internship but I had the freedom to design and lead the whole project.

Research may not be the dominant culture at Wharton, but that does not mean Wharton students aren’t doing research. When everyone talks about their clubs and coffee chats and recruiting, it often seems like people are not spending time on research. However, there are always students conducting research during the year and over the summer, they just might not be as vocal about it. Don’t let the pre-professional nature of the school turn you away from research.

Use research as an opportunity to study what you’re passionate about. We all take the same core classes with a few spaces for electives. If you are passionate about a topic that is not explored in the classroom, conducting research could be the perfect opportunity to explore your area of interest. I have found research to be a fun way to combine my interests into an inter-disciplinary mode of study. Or maybe something covered in class resonated with you and you want to dive deeper – research can provide a way to do that too.  

Research is always a useful skill. I think at Wharton we idolize modeling skills or networking skills, but knowing how to conduct research will also take you far in life. Ultimately, research is going to be an aspect of pretty much any job. Whether you’re conducting consumer research or market comp research, I can almost guarantee that part of your job will include research. Being able to show your research skills on a resume will highlight your initiative, intellectual curiosity, and ability to achieve results.

Julia has conducted extensive research on the financial sustainability of historic house museums. She is excited to present her findings in her Wharton senior thesis.

Best of luck in all your research endeavors!

WW love,

Julia