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2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ming Hu, Rotman School of Management

Ming Hu

Full Professor

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

When students look back on their classroom experience with a professor and the memories include sayings such as “Unique teaching techniques that tickle the brain” and “he took a topic I dreaded and actually made it interesting and manageable — to the extent that I actually earned an A+ in the course,” it doesn’t come as a surprise that said professor is a six-time teaching award winner. As is the case for Rotman School of Management’s Ming Hu. The operations management professor received the Rotman School Teaching Award five consecutive times from 2009 through 2013 then another nod for teaching excellence in 2016. Students consistently express their admiration for his contagious passion for the material that’s taught, taking it to heart if students are unable to grasp a concept, and his intentional approach to make everything he teaches practical in nature. In fact, when asked what he enjoys most about teaching business students, Hu says he takes joy in knowing that what he teaches helps students to solve practical problems in their day-to-day operations.

Hu’s dedication to research is his second claim to fame. In 2016, he was the recipient of the Early-Career Research Accomplishments Award by Production and Operations Management Society and in 2017 he became Editor-in-Chief of the Naval Research Logistics journal, the professional achievement he says he’s most proud of. Hu’s research centers on operations management in the context of sharing economy, social buying, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, and two-sided markets, with the goal to explore operational decisions that benefit the consumers, platforms, as well as society.

Age: 38

At current institution since what year?

2008

Education: 

Ph.D. in Operations Research, Columbia University, 2009

M.S. in Operations Research, Columbia University, 2007

M.S. in Applied Mathematics, Brown University, 2003

B.S. in Mathematics, Nanjing University (China), 2001

List of courses you currently teach:

Operations Management (MBA core), Supply Chain Management (undergraduate elective), Revenue Management (PhD)

Twitter handle: @ming_hu

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…”

I got admitted to the graduate school in engineering, knowing that I am deeply interested in understanding business.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

B-school’s research often focuses on the firm’s profitability. In today’s innovative marketplaces, I find the role of platforms fascinating, as its profitability is often aligned with that of consumers and the society.  My recent research interest lies in operations management in the context of sharing economy, social buying, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, and two-sided markets, with the goal to explore operational decisions that benefit the consumers, platforms, as well as society. For example, I am very excited about a recent research project, jointly with Kickstarter.com. We are trying to see how to help entrepreneurs increase the success rates of their crowdfunding projects, creating a win-win-win for the idea creators, crowdfunding backers and the platform itself.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…”

I would very likely work in my own startup

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

Strong interest in how things work and broad research backgrounds

“One word that describes my first time teaching”:

Exuberant

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be?

Feeling good (Avicii remix)

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

Desire to explore the unknown and disseminate the discovery

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor”:

You don’t get to fly business class for free, haha.

Professor you most admire and why:

My mentors, Professor Awi Federgruen and Professor Guillermo Gallego, for their unfading passion in creating new knowledge, and Professor Andrew Wiles and Professor Yitang Zhang for their inspiration to pursue purity in academic life

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Learning that what I taught in class helps them to solve practical problems in their day-to-day operations.

What is most challenging?

Teaching quantitative materials to students who have less quantitative training/background

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student:

Critical-thinking

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student:

Bluffer

What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done?       

Challenge me in every single class

What is the least favorite thing one has done?      

When playing a take-home online simulation game, a student hacked into others’ accounts and messed up their strategies.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?  

Deep understanding of the course materials, coupled with insightful class participation

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …”  

Fair

“But I would describe myself as …”

Fair

Fill in the blank:

“If my students can apply what they learned from class to guide optimizing things in their jobs, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself:

Having tintin mohawk; using a domain ming.hu for personal website, for which some firm in Hungary once was willing to pay $2000

What are your hobbies?

Movies and music

How will you spend your summer?

Alternate between traveling around to give talks and staying at home to solve research problems

Favorite place to vacation:

Tibet

Favorite book:

The Road to Serfdom

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

A Scene At The Sea, by Takeshi Kitano, for telling a story as singing songs without words

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

Oasis, Gorillaz, Avicii, Globe, Miserable Faith

Bucket list item #1:

Starting up a business analytics company

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Serving as the Editor-in-Chief of Naval Research Logistics, a premier journal in operations research and general quantitative modeling

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?

Learned that I was winning the 2016 Wickham Skinner Early-Career Research Accomplishments Award by Production and Operations Management Society

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…”

Electives, independent studies and practical training

“And much less of this…”

Lectures

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Please explain.

Building a sustainable and socially responsible business

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you

Applying my analytical skills to help online marketplaces to achieve operational efficiency and benefit the consumers and society

Students say…

Ming makes the profound impacts from his interaction and dedication to students. Ming has unique way to explain the operational complex theories in depth and simplify them with interactive games, online simulations and class discussions. He invited students to actively participate in every interactive experiments and enabled us learn most from the course. He is so helpful and so well connected. He always invite for conversations and promptly reply our emails whenever we seek his advice and help. Because of his tremendous commitment to our learning experience, I believe that he is by far one of the best professors I had during my MBA study.

– Amanda Wang, MBA’19

Ming is a dedicated professor, keen to share his passion for Operations Management and to ensure that his students are able to take theoretical and ideal circumstances, learn from them and apply them to their own projects and tasks.  Ming is always available to his students, takes it to heart when we do not understand a concept, and follows up to make sure that we have achieved clarity and comprehension. Ops Management is a difficult course with a reputation to match – it’s teaching concepts to people who often feel that they are already walking the walk, yet it is imperative that we break down the steps that make up the process. Ming’s dedication to our learning, his generosity with his time and knowledge, and his passion for the topic are the three attributes that stand out for me about Ming.

– Elizabeth Cragg, MBA’19 

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