Wharton Professor Katherine Milkman Wins Third Annual “Iron Prof” Competition

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With a five minute pitch summarizing her current research on how “bundling” temptations like page-turning books with obligations like exercise can motivate people to get to the gym, Associate Professor of Operations and Information Management Katherine Milkman won the Wharton Iron Prof Competition in April. The event pitted many of the most engaging processors at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business against one another in a battle of research ideas judged by audience appeal.

Milkman’s competition included renowned Wharton Vice Dean of Innovation Karl Ulrich, Assistant Professor of Finance Alex Edmans, Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy Judd Kessler, Assistant Professor of Management Ethan Mollick and Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy Michael Sinkinson.

Dr. Ulrich’s presentation focused on the value of a raw innovative idea. Dr. Edmans compared World Cup results to stock market performance and found that countries that lose in the semi-finals of the tournament experience an average stock market drop of .5% the following day, challenging the idea that financial markets are solely driven by fundamentals.

Dr. Kessler summarized research on incentives and organ donation that he conducted with Stanford University Professor and Nobel Prize winner Alvin E. Roth. Dr. Mollick contended that careers in entrepreneurship are good for your bank account and your love life. Dr. Sinkinson analyzed the type of exclusive wireless provider contracts that for a time characterized the AT&T-Apple iPhone relationship.

But their presentations failed to win over the audience like Milkman’s presentation, which invoked the popular novel The Hunger Games. Mimicking the crowd participation element of reality television, the attendees in Wharton’s Huntsman Hall voted via cellphone to grant the 2013 Iron Prof Award to Dr. Milkman.

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