“By working with great professors, I can see firsthand how it all works, what they do day-to-day, and model myself after them.”

Alison Wood Brooks knew from the beginning that she wanted to study decision processes – specifically, how emotions influence behavior in negotiations and trust.

“To look at the building blocks of human behavior is thrilling. I have the best job in the world,” she said.

Wharton’s behavioral lab was a huge draw for Alison. It’s ranked as one of the best in the country and has a full-time staff of about five people who organize all of the sessions and all of the experiments.

“All we really need to do is give them the particulars about our study and they do everything for us. It’s really amazing,” she said. “Contrast that with other schools that might have a great lab, but faculty and grad students have to run the studies and recruit subjects themselves, which is incredibly time-consuming.”

“The facilities here at Wharton are beautiful. All of the grad students have amazing spaces, and it seems almost limitless funding in terms of research. There’s really no end to what we can do. If you can dream it up, Wharton can make it happen.”

An Apprenticeship Model With Faculty

Being a professor requires a huge diversity of skills. “You have to be able to give a dynamic presentation to a room full of 300 people, and also be able to go back to your office and write a paper well, and then turn around and run a cleanly designed study, where you manipulate complicated variables,” Alison said.

“You have to stay organized on many of these tasks and communicate clearly with a lab director, with an advisor, with a conference coordinator. By working with great professors, I can see firsthand how it all works, what they do day-to-day, and model myself after them.”

Alison’s main advisor is Maurice Schweitzer, and their relationship works on an apprenticeship model. “Maurice respects the work that I do, and he often says that having a great grad student is the best thing that can happen to a professor because they can take on much of the legwork to execute research,” she said.

Her experience in working with professors has been more of a collaboration where ideas go both ways. “At Wharton you’re not just some Cinderella person to be bossed around. You’re an important colleague among very smart, kind, hard-working, brilliant people,” Alison said.

She’s also found is a colloquium of scholars in the OID department department, plus Wharton Marketing and Management, and Psychology and Economics at Penn – all of them studying decision processes. “Wharton is an amazing place to be a grad student,” she said. “It’s a community of brilliant minds who all are interested in similar things.”

Posted: November 13, 2014

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