We proudly present the winner of the Professor Lambers Prize: Brian Chung (28, ESE)

Brian being congratulated by Dean Philip Hans Franses

Meet Brian Chung! The currently PhD student at Erasmus School of Economics has won the professor H.W. Lambers Prize  for outstanding students with two master degrees. Brian graduated from Erasmus School of Economics in 2015 with three Master specialisations, two of which cum laude.


Congratulations! Are you happy with the prize?
‘Yes, it’s great!’

You’ve managed to finish not two but three masters. Wasn’t that terribly hard?
‘To be short: yes. I was living by myself and working as a junior consultant three days a week to be able to afford the rent and groceries. I didn’t borrow money from the government or receive any from my parents. Once, I didn’t have hot water in my apartment for about six months so I had to take a cold shower every morning at 5 am. That wasn’t always easy.
On top of that, I had never heard of anyone doing three masters. It didn’t seem possible in terms of available time and conflicting schedules. But I found a way to make it work.’

That sounds gruesome. Why did you nevertheless do it?
‘I’m a very inquisitive person. I always want to know why things are the way they are and often see how they could’ve been done better. I noticed for instance that both finance people as well as marketing people were doing research, but there never seemed to be a good combination of the two. Finance studies phenomena with dynamic models over time, while marketing studies phenomena more in cross-section. But why, I thought, not study the whole loaf instead of just one slice of bread or only the dough?

Your combination of research fields, finance and marketing, is unique.
‘I’m curious to know the story behind the numbers, even though my background is in econometrics, which is mainly about numbers. I’ve done projects for Unilever and Jumbo and wanted to know why demand in certain products was rising. That means you have to look at consumer behaviour. I’d been reading on behavioural economics, which I found very interesting, but it didn’t really involve econometrics. So I figured I could combine behavioural economics with econometrics and marketing. That’s why I chose three master specialisations: econometrics and management science plus behavioural economics and marketing.’

The Lambers prize includes 3,500 euros. What will you do with that money?
‘Next year I’ll go to Harvard to do some research and a summer school. I’ll be using the money for tuition, housing and those kinds of things.’

You’re currently a PhD student at ESE. What is your research there about? ‘It’s about marketing and innovation in the automotive industry. With developments like self-driving and electric cars the big question is: How will transportation look like ten or twenty years from now? I think that is impossible to find out without combining research fields. We need dynamic models to study the evolution over time and at the same time state-of-the-art marketing techniques to analyse companies and products. Since even if you get numbers on how many of those cars we will see in the future, we still have to wonder why people buy them. Is it because of the environment, or just because they look good and drive fast? The answer is very important to governments, because they subsidize companies that produce electric cars and if people buy them for other reasons than the environment, that money is spent in a wrong way. Besides it’s interesting for consumers to know whether in the future we will travel in a Hyperloop, drive in an autonomous hybrid vehicle or go full-electric.’

And, have you find out anything already?
‘A lot. But you’ll have to wait and read my dissertation for that.’

Do you have any advice for students who are also considering doing multiple masters?
‘To me this prize means that it pays off to follow your interests and stand up for your beliefs. I could have just studied econometrics and earn money working at a bank or as a strategy consultant. People would have totally understood. It was much more controversial and against the grain to do something that is less quantitative. It requires confidence, perseverance and the ability to not pay attention to other people’s judgments.
This prize is a validation that it’s good to follow your own path. But people shouldn’t just pursue three master degrees to show off or because they don’t know what else to do. Don’t be a Jack-of-all-trades. You need to focus on the end goal. In my case that is something that doesn’t exist yet, and this path is my means to achieve it. I need to excel in every single discipline in order to make it. It’s about seeing something others don’t see and to keep believing in it. Then you will succeed.’