Learning From the Best to Fulfil the Academic Dream

By the SMU Postgraduate Research Programmes Team

Have you ever wondered what determines currency exchange rates or what factors dictate the pricing of the house that you’re living in? Jiang Liang, who recently graduated from the SMU PhD in Economics programme, explains that it’s all economics. Economics studies behaviours, patterns and trends which aid in decision making and also interprets potential outcomes.

“It’s fascinating how economics can be applied to almost every aspect of our daily lives,” he continued enthusiastically. His desire to understand the inner workings of economics eventually motivated him to broaden his knowledge and pursue a PhD in Economics.

When it comes to pursuing his passion, Jiang Liang wanted to learn from the best and after much deliberation decided to take up the SMU PhD in Economics programme. “There were many factors to consider when selecting a PhD programme but what attracted me to SMU’s PhD in Economics programme was the strong credentials of its faculty members,” he said.

Indeed, the SMU Economics faculty members comprise professors with diverse research backgrounds and multifaceted experiences gained through extensive research work both in academia and industry. Amongst them are academics who are on national councils, editors or editorial board members of prestigious scholarly journals, and recipients of international scholarly awards.


Liang’s PhD Journey

Liang’s PhD journey was not without hurdles. The coursework he did and the preparation for the Qualifying Examination in his first year was tough but research work was a different ball game altogether. Unlike coursework, where he could rely on knowledge from the textbook, he now needed to push the boundaries to explore new possibilities and test their feasibility in the academic arena as well as the real world.

Jiang Liang at MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Jiang Liang with his classmate and good friend, Huaxia Zeng, hiking at MacRitchie Reservoir Park

When he undertook research work, he regularly consulted his co-supervisors, Professor Jun Yu and Professor Peter C.B. Phillips. During these interactions, he learnt the proper way to conduct research and how to present his ideas and findings in research papers.

“Fortunately, I had the support and encouragement of the faculty members, staff and my peers through this difficult process”, he said as he recalled those challenging moments. With the help of the people around him and his determination to succeed in this area, Liang ultimately managed to find his footing in his research work. “It was a steep learning curve but I successfully managed myself through this learning process,” he added.

Through his involvement in the weekly “Reading Group”, Liang interacted and networked with other PhD students as well as faculty members, and this helped him to discover different thought processes and ideas that benefited his research work.

During the course of this PhD journey, Liang had the chance to rub shoulders with top minds nationally and around the world through the conferences he attended, such as the 1st Conference on Recent Developments in Financial Econometrics and Applications in Melbourne (2014) and the Princeton-QUT-SJTU-SMU Econometrics Conference in Singapore (2015). These opportunities further ignited his passion for Economics and empowered him to delve deeper into his research work. And he also co-authored a publication with his supervisors Peter C.B. Phillips and Jun Yu, in the Journal of Banking and Finance, titled “New Methodology for Constructing Real Estate Price Indices Applied to the Singapore Residential Market”.


Beyond PhD

Jiang Liang with Professor Jun Yu after his graduation

Jiang Liang with Professor Jun Yu after his graduation

Reflecting on his journey thus far, he feels that enrolling in the SMU PhD in Economics programme was a great decision and mentions that the guidance he received from his supervisors has been pivotal. “My supervisors and other faculty members were always available throughout my PhD; they took the time to impart invaluable experiences and knowledge in prepping me for my career.” He is grateful and glad that his relationship with his supervisors did not cease at the completion of his PhD. “My supervisors are very approachable. I felt at ease when I had to drop by their offices, either for advice or just to catch up.”

There is no stopping Liang from pursuing his passion. He plans to continue his research in Economics and, like his supervisors, hopes to impart knowledge and cultivate interest in Econometrics through his teaching. He is all set to join Fudan-Oceanwide International School of Finance and School of Economics at Fudan University as a Joint Assistant Professor in July 2017. He believes that the skills he acquired through the various stints as a teaching assistant at SMU during his PhD journey will help him in his career.

When asked what it takes to be a successful PhD student, he replies that it comes down to a strong interest and perseverance. “Doing a PhD is tough and it requires a lot of dedication and interest. Ultimately, the sense of achievement and fulfilment from all the hard work is the best reward!”


[Feature photo:  Jiang Liang and his supervisor, Professor Jun Yu, at the 11th International Symposium on Econometric Theory and Applications (SETA 2015), Tokyo, Japan]