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Faculty Spotlight: Kejia Hu

Sep 22, 2017
Professor Hu's research spans industries, from automobiles to the internet
Empiricist brings skills with big data to service operations research

By Nathaniel Luce

A hotel guest has a billing issue after check-out and decides to vent on Twitter.  A research center wants to transfer a large amount of data from coast to coast. A regulatory agency considers new emission standards for automobiles. A nursing home chain looks to expand its footprint by acquiring a rival.

What do these decisions have in common?

  • They involve service operations;
  • They can have wide-reaching effects; and
  • They generate tremendous amounts of data.

Professor Kejia Hu

These are some of the big considerations that drive Professor Kejia Hu’s research. An empiricist in operations management, the newest member of the Operations faculty at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management believes that big data can benefit companies and customers alike. She looks across industries to find her focus. “Mainly, I will go with interesting questions – what is the next revolutionary thing happening in our society,” she says. “The other thing I need is data. I need to have both – an interesting question and a suitable data set.”

The Assistant Professor of Operations earned her Ph.D. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management earlier this year, but she’s already co-authored several studies with interesting questions and ample data sets. Her scholarship investigates consumer retrial by connecting customers’ decisions with their preferences on service aspects: the speed in service access and the quality in service delivered. She also studies product life cycle (PLC) curves from historical demand data for use in forecasting demand of ready-to-launch new products. Her work on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and regulations in the automobile industry found that tighter NOx standards led to a higher probability of misconduct, a particularly important revelation in the wake of Volkswagen’s emission scandal. She co-developed a model for the Department of Energy to map data traffic speeds on high-speed internet networks (“we gave them a google map,” she said), to optimize large data transfers within an increasingly taxed infrastructure. All told, Hu’s collection of studies past, present, and future has already reached the double digits.

Data-driven decision making is one of the most important skills (MBAs) can have.

Throughout her scholarship, Hu’s attention to customer benefit has remained constant. “The research is focused on how we can provide better services to customers to generate more profit for the companies, something that’s beneficial for both parties,” she says.

In the classroom – Hu teaches in the MBA,  and Undergraduate Business Minor programs. She will teach “Management of Service Operations” in the daytime MBA program and “Managerial Operations” in the Vanderbilt undergraduate business minor.

She plans to share data from her research and let students explore. “Data-driven decision making is one of the most important skills (MBAs) can have,” she says, “so I want them to have the ability to understand the data and ask more insightful questions.” More specifically, she strives to “teach students how to analyze data, collect information, acquire knowledge, and impart wisdom.”

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