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2019 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Marius Florin Niculescu, Georgia Institute of Technology (Scheller)

Marius Florin Niculescu

Associate Professor of IT Management

Georgia Institute of Technology Scheller College of Business

Marius Florin Niculescu takes a potentially dry subject and makes it so entertaining and engaging that he won the Core Professor of the Year at the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech the last three years (2017-2019).

The 39-year-old’s expertise is in IT diffusion and management, cloud computing, network economics and open platform innovation, and his work has been published in renowned journals including Management Information Systems Quarterly, Information Systems Research, and Management Science. He has been cited close to 400 times by other academics and has won several teaching awards including Georgia Tech’s 2019 Brady Family Award for Faculty Teaching Excellence, and the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Full-Time MBA Core Professor of the Year award.

“Florin is a master of his content and brings deep pedagogical knowledge to his courses,” one nominator said. “His enthusiasm for IT helps engage every student in discussions of past milestones and future advances. It is no surprise he was last year’s “Core Professor of the Year.”

Current Age: 39

At current institution since what year? 2009

Education: Ph.D. in Operations, Information, and Technology from Stanford Graduate School of Business

List of current MBA courses you currently teach: MGT 6503 – “Managing Information Resources” – MBA Core Class in Information Systems (both for full time and evening MBAs)

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR:

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was half-way through the Ph.D. When I applied to the Ph.D., I knew I liked research and I was genuinely curious about the transformative role of IT in the business world and in society overall. However, my vision of a teaching career was a little blurrier and naïve at that time – I did enjoy the process of imparting knowledge and contributing to others’ reaching an “Aha!” moment but did not fully comprehend all that such a path would entail. I was in an exploratory mode – would an academic career be a good fit for me or go the industry route? As I gradually started asking thought-provoking questions about the economics of IT that other academics or industry folks did not address before in a definitive way (or at all), my confidence grew that I could have a distinctive voice and impact in this arena and that I can build enough momentum to nurture this interest into a long-term career. It was this additional internal validation that I needed to pass for this choice to feel right.

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

One of my current research projects explores the economics of ransomware attacks. In this project, I consider the dynamic interplay between consumers and a vendor of vulnerable software, in a landscape where hackers do attack systems at risk using ransomware worms. One very interesting and counterintuitive finding is that, under certain market conditions, when victims face an added option to mitigate losses via a ransom payment, the number of consumers and the software vendor’s profit can actually increase in both the ransom demand as well as the risk of residual losses following a ransom payment (which reflect the trustworthiness of the ransomware operator).

If I weren’t a business school professor… I could see myself most likely on one of a handful of alternative paths. If the fork had occurred prior to the Ph.D., I would probably have attempted to pursue a career in architecture or design and my undergrad education would have probably reflected that as well. If we are talking about different choices post-PhD, I think I would have first approached a career in IT product management or quantitative finance as the immediate step after graduation.

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

I put a great amount of effort in preparing my course and keeping it contemporary and I do try to make myself available to students as much as possible.

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Anxious

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

Being strategic about your research portfolio is very important early on in your b-school academic career due to the potently lengthy publication cycles.

Also, good TA support can tremendously enhance the ability of an instructor to effectively cover course material.

Professor you most admire and why:

Prof. Avi Seidmann from Simon Business School, University of Rochester. He has been a very influential professor in the field of information systems and has generously dedicated a lot of time and resources to support the academic community.

STUDENTS:

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I do enjoy a couple of things. First, I do like the diversity and energy of the cohorts. Students’ own experiences allow for rich classroom interactions. Also, I get to learn from my students – on any given topic, there is always someone in the audience that knows something that I do not know.

Moreover, especially in the field of information systems, industry moves at a rapid pace, compelling me to constantly learn and regularly update my materials in order to be able to deliver relevant content to students. It never gets boring!

Last, MBA students are driven and that motivates me to try my best to contribute to their success by crafting an appropriate learning experience for them.

What is most challenging?

I currently teach core in a half-semester format. It gets rather challenging to build interest in various topics and keep students engaged when there is not enough time to dive deep into any of these topics and the course progresses at a fast pace. Content has to be carefully curated/developed and proper learning support has to be in place. But I do enjoy the pedagogical challenge.

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair / transparent.

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM:

What are your hobbies?

Time with my son, photography, following tech trends

How will you spend your summer?

A combination of travel, relaxation, and research. Also, I want to make sure that I do spend a lot of time with my family.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Tahoe (easy to vacation with the family)

Favorite book(s): Aldous Huxley – Brave New World.

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

The top spot for me is held by Gattaca – I enjoy tremendously the story, acting, soundtrack, and cinematography. Quite thought-provoking. No spoilers here.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: My interests have been changing frequently on this front so I cannot claim a particular music or artist as my favorite. Have been sampling a lot (courtesy of Pandora). One pleasant discovery recently was the music of The Black Keys.

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTIONS:

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

  1. Experiential Learning
  2. Ethics-infused curriculum

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

Companies and organizations need to do a better job to address the needs and rights of the consumers and the employees. In the digital era, it has become too easy to collect sensitive consumer information and companies have to step up their game in terms of being responsible stewards of such resources. Privacy and data security should be top priorities. On the other hand, walled data wells lead to concentration of market power and a weaker competitive environment. Legislators ought to reflect more on how past legislation needs to evolve to adapt to this digital age. For employees, companies and organizations can do a lot more in terms of accommodating fair compensation, equal opportunities, parental or family leaves, and lower-stress work environments (depression is endemic and work can exacerbate it).

Faculty and administrators say:

“Florin teaches Managing Information Resources (among other courses), which is part of the core MBA curriculum at the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech. One indicator of his teaching excellence is that he was named the Core Professor of the Year for the full-time MBA program in 2017 and 2018 and the evening MBA program in 2018. This is a remarkable achievement given that many of his students have little interest in the subject matter until after they take his course. Florin is also a world-class researcher, as evidenced by his receipt of the Sandra A. Slaughter Early Career Award from the INFORMS Information Systems Society in 2017. He is an expert on strategy in the software industry, as evidenced by his receipt of the Best Publication of the Year award from the Association for Information Systems in 2013 for his research on error reporting and software quality.”

“Dr. “Florin” Niculescu is a standout professor– not only at Georgia Tech, but within business education overall. Though his credentials are impressive– Harvard undergraduate and multiple graduate degrees from Stanford– it’s his intentional curriculum planning and engaging teaching style that elevate Florin to a favorite professor for all MBA students at Georgia Tech. He teaches the core course in Managing Information Resources, which is a unique combination of IT management, business analytics, and digital strategy. This class builds the foundation of Georgia Tech’s focus on technology and business, and we all complete the class with a new handful of programming languages on our resumes as well as a solid understanding of areas of innovation in blockchain, cybersecurity, and platform business models. He has quickly become an essential fixture at Georgia Tech and a standout in his field.”

DON’T MISS: MEET ALL OF POETS&QUANTS’ BEST 40 UNDER 40 PROFESSORS OF 2019