Sugata Ray


Degree Date: PhD, 2009
Program: Finance
Placement: University of Florida

Ph.D. candidates typically come into a program with a research agenda of some kind. But what they may not know is it’s fine to rethink that plan once they get started. “You read all of these papers, you get new information, you talk to all of these professors at Wharton, and you find yourself becoming interested in other things,” explains Sugata Ray. “It doesn’t mean there’s no role for the ideas you came in with, but as you discuss your existing ideas, your focus changes, and you may develop a different research agenda.”

Breadth of Knowledge

One of the benefits of a school like Wharton is the large, diverse faculty that students can
access as they narrow the focus on their area of interest. “Whatever you want to do, there is someone at Wharton who knows something about it,” says Ray, who was a doctoral student in the Finance Department. “You may go in thinking you want to do research in field ‘A’ with this expert in field ‘A.’ But then you get there, and your interests change, and you think, ‘Now what?.’ At Wharton you can do that. If your interests change, you’re covered.”

Research Support

While at Wharton, Ray focused his research on empirical corporate finance, an area he continues to explore as an assistant professor at the University of Florida.  He points to a number of advantages to being a Wharton student, from invaluable access to the Wharton Research Data System (WRDS) to the program’s flexibility. He worked closely with his advisor, David Musto. “I went to David with an idea for a paper which ended up being my job market paper,” he says. “I wanted to do a study of the high water mark feature in hedge fund contracts and see how it affected hedge fund manager behavior, which in turn would affect investor behavior. It was also fortuitous because David had just started adding hedge funds and high water mark to his research agenda. Over the course of writing that paper, I saw him pretty often, maybe once a month, to talk about our ideas and some of the empirical results I obtained.”

Developing Relationships with Faculty

Ray says that relationships with professors run the gamut at Wharton—some students start off as research assistants, develop ideas with their professors and leverage their professors’ many years of experience. Other students come up with ideas on their own, sell their idea to a professor and develop a working relationship in that manner. Either way, the end goal is the same, he says. “Doing a PhD is similar to an apprenticeship,” he explains. “You’re learning a craft that by its very nature is difficult to teach. You’re essentially in the business of producing knowledge. It’s not easy to teach that.”