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Doctor's career path: Assistant Professor Petra Vokata

‘Top conferences in my field were great opportunities for networking and receiving valuable feedback on research.’
Apulaisprofessori Petra Vokata. Kuva: Lasse Lecklin / Aalto-yliopisto
Petra Vokata (Assistant Professor of Finance at Ohio State University) praises her colleagues at the Department of Finance and the excellent IT infrastructure and access to data the Department has. Photo: Lasse Lecklin / Aalto University

You graduated with a Master of Science in Economics degree in 2012. Was it obvious for you that you wanted to continue your studies in a Business and Economics doctoral programme?

I started to consider applying to doctoral programs more seriously during the time I was writing my Master’s Thesis at Charles University in Prague. I am grateful to my Master’s Thesis advisor, Jiri Novak, for guiding me and encouraging me throughout the process and for introducing me to successful professors from abroad who shared their experience with me. Aalto University was an easy choice given the excellent academic record of the Finance Department in the area I wanted to pursue: behavioral and household finance.

What do you consider the best aspect of doctoral studies at the School of Business? And is there something that needs improving?

The Finance Department of Aalto University has an excellent track record in the placement of its doctoral candidates. This is a testament to the excellent quality of the program and hard work and dedication of Mikko Leppämäki, Director of Graduate School of Finance. In terms of quality, the Finance PhD program is on par with the best programs in the world, and on many dimensions, it beats what other programs typically offer.

The most important factor is the quality of supervision. I had a chance to interact with Matti Keloharju, my advisor and Aalto Distinguished Professor, basically on a daily basis. The IT infrastructure and access to data were better than what many top schools offer even to tenure-track faculty. The Graduate School of Finance organized courses and seminars with some of the best international scholars, allowing us to keep track of the most recent research development and interact with international faculty. I met my international coauthors through these interactions. 

Finally, the Finance Department makes sure that PhD students can focus most of their attention on research and keeps the teaching and administrative load relatively light.

Did you attend seminars and conferences abroad during your doctoral studies?

From the second year onwards, I have been regularly attending top conferences in my field both in Europe and in the US. Later in my studies, I also had a chance to present my research at these conferences. These events are great opportunities for networking and receiving valuable feedback on research. They are also great for meeting friends, which makes the academic career much more fun.

Did you complete courses at foreign universities during your doctoral studies? If yes, did you apply for funding?

Yes. I spent two research visits at the University of California, Berkeley, for which I applied and received generous funding. I also attended summer school at Yale University, two workshops at Northwestern University, and a short course with David Laibson from Harvard at NHH. I never had any problems receiving funding for visits abroad.

How long did your doctoral studies take?

My doctoral studies took six years, which is a standard in my field. From my experience, all candidates in Finance that progressed successfully with their studies received funding from various sources for all six years.

Did you find employment the way that you had hoped after your doctoral studies?

Absolutely. I received several offers from some of the best universities in the US and in Europe, from which I chose Ohio State University as the best fit.  This would not have been possible without the help of my committee members: Matti Keloharju and Matti Suominen from Aalto University, Samuli Knüpfer from BI Norwegian Business School, and Harrison Hong from Columbia University; and without a great deal of support from my friends and colleagues at Aalto University.

Doctoral programmes

Doctoral education at Aalto University is offered in six doctoral programmes.

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