Growing through research – Yuelin’s journey as an undergraduate research assistantThu, Aug 19, 2021
Meet Wang Yuelin, an undergraduate student from Singapore studying under Waseda University’s English-based Degree Program at the School of Political Science and Economics. Though only in her third year, Yuelin has participated in a research project titled “Is Social Capital Valuable? Evidence from Mergers and Acquisitions,” which was recognized and accepted by the 33rd Asian Finance Association (Asian FA) Annual Meeting, one of the biggest finance conferences in Asia. Yuelin later presented the paper at the conference in July 2021.
With a passion for economics and international relations, coupled with interests in the Japanese language and culture, Yuelin chose the School of Political Science and Economics at Waseda, which offers a top course in the field to pursue her undergraduate education. “The charm point of Japan? First, the mutual respect and cooperation in the society. Second, the craftsmanship spirit: the dedication and effort that Japanese people devote to do the best that they can, no matter the field or occupation.” Besides this admiration, she mentioned the good diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan, as well as her interest in regional studies of the Asia Pacific area, which led her to Japan, and Waseda.
Yuelin’s interest in finance drew her to take finance and related courses such as entrepreneur finance and financial mathematics in her second year. She particularly enjoyed the classes taught by professor Giang Nguyen, whose research focuses on Corporate Finance and Entrepreneurial Finance, as well as Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As). Yuelin’s performance in the course and her interest in finance shone through brightly, and professor Nguyen asked her if she would like to try working as a research assistant (RA).
Starting something completely new is never an easy task. “I needed to learn a lot of things, quickly.” Yuelin started self-studying the necessary programming languages, textbooks, and other materials under the recommendation of professor Nguyen. Showing competence in completing initial tasks, Yuelin tackled more advanced tasks after building her skill set. “Step by step, I learned and gained confidence. And my professor saw and recognized that.” She later joined and assisted an international research project with two other professors, professor Hannah Nguyen and professor Harry Pham from Monash University. “It was a very professional working environment,” Yuelin added as she described the work experience.
Yuelin describes herself as one who can adapt to new environments well, but balancing complex research work and intensive studies is not an easy feat. She started her position as an RA during her summer break when she could devote her time and energy to work. “However, I had to balance deadlines, studies, exams, and the RA job duties when school started. That being said, I’m positive when it comes to challenges and I believe that if you put in the effort using the right methods, you can achieve your goals.” Yuelin goes on to mention that time with family and friends, advice from professor Nguyen, and leisure time spent on hobbies such as playing the piano helped her to cope with stress. “I am also greatly appreciative of the understanding, guidance, support, and patience of professor Nguyen throughout the experience.”
The competency demonstrated in previous tasks led Yuelin to the opportunity to work as a research collaborator on a project with both professor Nguyen, and professor Jo-Ann Suchard from UNSW Sydney. Yuelin was involved in each stage of the research process, including literature review, data collection, data processing, data analysis, and the writing of the paper titled Is Social Capital Valuable? Evidence from Mergers and Acquisitions.
“Social capital captures and reflects the benefits of our social relationships, social connections, social networks, and strongly shared cooperative societal norms. For example, if we think about the society that we live in, how strong is the social support, the community health, and the institutional health?” Yuelin adds that the level of volunteering, the amount of trust in society, and the confidence that people have in corporations are also indicators that reflect social capital. Looking specifically at corporations and M&As, the paper explains how social capital creates value and wealth for company shareholders and contributes to good corporate investment decisions.
Yuelin notes that one main motivation for the paper is to draw a link between society and the economy. “By showing this link, and by showing that social capital creates economic value, we may be able to influence certain policies, so that we can place greater importance on society. When society is aware of these benefits, they will be encouraged to contribute to the greater good of the society and increase our social capital.” She highlights the value of social capital, mentioning that the benefits of social capital reach every individual in society.
After presenting the paper at the 33rd Asian Finance Association Annual Meeting held virtually from July 2 to 4, Yuelin adds that the next step will be to improve and deepen the research. “I believe that there’s still much to be done and a lot to be learned to complete this project. This was the first time l received feedback and comments from professional researchers, and I believe that it would be invaluable towards the final goal of publishing the research paper.”
When asked about her current endeavors, Yuelin mentioned she just completed her classes at Peking University in China under Waseda University’s Double Degree Program (DDP). The educational program allows students to obtain two degrees (from Waseda and a partner university) upon their graduation. After finishing her intense schedule and exams for the semester, she hopes to spend more time with her family before heading back to Waseda in the fall.
Regarding tips for fellow undergraduate students who would like to dive into the research field, Yuelin mentioned the first step will be to develop the necessary or relevant skills. When facing difficulties, she suggested asking for guidance from professors. “We are very privileged to be learning in an environment where we can seek professional help and advice at Waseda.” She adds, “We should not be afraid of doing something new. We should stay curious, and put our thoughts into action. This is not just applicable to research, but if you have something in life you want to pursue, you should plan your path, work hard, and be prepared to learn. If you’re up to the challenge and you take it seriously, you will grow greatly as a result.”