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2021 Best 40-Under-40 Professors: Tinglong Dai, Johns Hopkins University (Carey)

Tinglong Dai

Associate Professor of Operations Management and Business Analytics

Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School

With more than 700 Google Scholar citations and about four dozen nominations, Tinglong Dai, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School, resembles the balance of teaching and research prowess that we set out to recognize through this award. Not surprisingly, Dai is an award-winning professor in research, teaching, and service. Between 2016 and 2019, Dai won the Dean’s Award for Faculty Excellence at the Carey School four straight years. He’s won the Management Science Distinguished Service Award the past three years and counting, and he’s been awarded the Johns Hopkins Discovery Award multiple times.

Most recently, Dai’s research has focused around the efficient and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine. He has been quoted hundreds of times since 2020 in popular media, including Bloomberg, CNN, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, and has appeared in national and international TV such as CNBC, PBS NewsHour, and Sky News.

“I study healthcare operations, and my most recent research looks at how to roll out COVID-19 vaccines efficiently and equitably,” Dai says. “A bit earlier, I studied the role of airline transportation in organ transplantation. Using airline route and kidney transplantation data, my coauthors and I estimate a new airline route can increase the number of kidneys shared across regions by 7.3%.”

Current age: 38

At current institution since what year? 2013

Education: Ph.D. in Operations Management/Robotics, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, 2013

List of MBA courses you currently teach:

  • Operations Management
  • Data Science: Artificial Intelligence
  • Contracting: Incentive Design and Analytics

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… Many years ago, when I was an engineering student in Hong Kong, I entertained the idea of getting a Ph.D. in business, so I asked a professor to write a reference letter. The answer was “no,” and I was told I was simply not b-school faculty material. That interaction was a big setback for me at that time. It also made me realize how much I desired to become a b-school professor. I can totally relate to Randy Pausch when said in his last lecture, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” So here we are.

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

I study healthcare operations, and my most recent research looks at how to roll out COVID-19 vaccines efficiently and equitably. A bit earlier, I studied the role of airline transportation in organ transplantation. Using airline route and kidney transplantation data, my coauthors and I estimate a new airline route can increase the number of kidneys shared across regions by 7.3%. These days, I am paying increased attention to human-AI interaction, especially how clinicians interact with AI. As AI applications become more powerful, one would expect clinicians to use AI more often. My research shows clinicians may avoid using AI if they worry about liability implications or how they are perceived by their peers. Nevertheless, it’s my conviction that AI won’t replace clinicians, but in the long run, clinicians who use AI will replace those who don’t.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would probably be a poet, novelist, or journalist — someone who converses, reads, and writes all day long.

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

Recognizing and being mindful of other people’s greatness.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Serendipitous.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Love never fails. When you care about others, people can really sense it.

Professor I most admire and why: There are many professors whom I love and admire, including Baris Ata, Mac Dada, Al Roth, Kathleen Sutcliffe, Chris Tang, and Sridhar Tayur, among others. Mark Twain said, “Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.” That’s precisely what they all have in common.

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Business students are not satisfied with merely understanding the world we are living in. They are interested in changing the world and often do.

What is most challenging?

A successful teaching experience is, paradoxically, hard to reshape from time to time. Embracing unknowns is hard and sticking to what has proven to work feels so natural.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Compassionate.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Indifferent.

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

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies?

Poetry, reading, and traveling with my wife and kids.

How will you spend your summer?

Taking a long family trip and several gateways. Reading, writing, and developing an AI course.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Hawaii, Paris, London, and Rome.

Favorite book(s): A Mencken Chrestomathy by H. L. Mencken

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu

Models of My Life by Herbert A. Simon

View with a Grain of Sand by Wislawa Szymborska

Development Projects Observed by Albert O. Hirschman

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

The PBS documentary, Hemingway, by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. I had always been fascinated by Ernest Hemingway’s books, especially A Farewell to Arms; the documentary allowed me to reimagine each of Hemingway’s books through his love, struggle, and change.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

I love music that introduces me to a new culture and perspective. When I was in high school, I was deeply obsessed with “Dona, Dona,” a song about fighting for freedom that was originally written in Yiddish and later gained worldwide popularity due to Joan Baez’s beautiful adaptation. During my days in Hong Kong, I became a fan of Cantonese songs and singers such as Anita Mui, Beyond, Samuel Hui, and Roman Tam. The songs by Teresa Teng of Taiwan feel both historical and timeless. I also enjoy the music of Tibet, Hawaii, and Scotland.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

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

In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… Treating adults as adults, treating children as children, and allowing people to tell the truth. People are not disposable and should be valued and elevated.

I’m grateful for… The love and support from my wife, parents, and kids.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:

“Learning from Dr. Dai was one of my best experiences as a female in STEM. His “Contract: Incentive Design and Analytics” course challenged me to think about the world well beyond the subject matter and equipped me to solve complex problems. More importantly, Dr. Dai emphasized the importance of understanding moral hazard of each decision’s outcome. Professor Dai is intelligent and kind. He knows the course material in-depth and is motivated to go above and beyond to empower students to understand analytical concepts through discussions. Beginning with his additional reading on Ethereum and case reviews on the risk and analysis management of bundled pricing, Dr. Dai provided students with a platform to evolve while remaining on the frontier of his own research. During this class, I felt supported and understood while being encouraged to work hard. As a result, I was able to finish this course as a well-rounded and capable professional. The impact of Dr. Dai’s teaching allows me to use experimental insight to understand a Firm’s signals, leverage items for negotiation while simultaneously considering cost capital, veto rights, and the sequence of decision making when solving complex issues. Without knowing it, Dr. Dai had a positive impact on my life… I am honored to have met Dr. Dai, and I would love to share this experience with you.”

“Tinglong Dai is literally the best professor at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School! His business acumen and passion for operations management and business analytics is unapparelled. My favorite part about his class was Tinglong’s ability to simplify highly complex concepts and deliver content in an engaging, entertaining, and more importantly, memorable way — something that is no easy task in highly technical subjects such as operations management and business analytics. His lessons resonated with me in school, and I find myself revisiting some concepts to this day in my current role as a Senior Project Manager at Franklin Templeton. I am so grateful to have been his student and could not think of anyone more deserving to be nominated for the ‘P&Q 40 under 40 Professors’ than Tinglong!”

“Professor Dai taught operations management at Carey business school with such passion and interest in student’s ability to learn and grasp all of the concepts. I was not good operations but he made it fun through the different simulations and games that he organized. I genuinely enjoyed the class by the end and he continues to support students long after they graduate when we do pro bono work or have questions.”

“I feel so lucky to have him as my professor for a few important courses at school. He never hesitates to share his knowledge, his resources, and his suggestions with students and peers. He gave me a lot of inspiration not only on the study but also on my career development. We still have some contact after my graduation. I am so happy to see all his research progress and passion to make his work contribute to society. Professor Dai is the best professor!”

“Prof. Dai is a remarkable professor at Carey Business School. Prof. Dai has been on the Dean’s Award for Faculty excellence four years running. Prof. Dai is also a published researcher in his field with various recent publications. Prof. Dai has appeared in the on CNBC and PBS News Hour, as a specialist in health care ecosystems and his research during the pandemic on PPE production. He is also seen as a specialist in medical logistics.”

DON’T MISS: POETS&QUANTS’ WORLD’S BEST 40-UNDER-40 BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS OF 2021