Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences, University of Pennsylvania ‘18
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Economics, Ohio Wesleyan University ‘17
“The applications of behavioral insights are vast,” says Shaaref Shah (Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences ’18). “The Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences (MBDS) gives you the base knowledge, and your concentration and electives help focus on where you want to target your career.” In Shar’s case, the program’s structure helped him choose a career path as well. After his undergraduate thesis project on behavioral economics sparked his interest in decision sciences, Shar wasn’t yet sure he wanted to commit to a four-year PhD. “A one-year program with a research option was perfect,” he recalls. “It was my gateway to understanding that I want to continue pursuing behavioral research.”
Shar valued the combination of theoretical knowledge and practical application in individual classes as well, such as an elective course on practical negotiations. “It was built in such a unique way,” he reflects. “We’d get into the research and ethical implications of negotiation, and then we got to apply it.” Another memorable experience took the form of a weekly seminar on coaching and consulting—which met bright and early on Saturday mornings. “Time flew,” Shar laughs. “It was an outstanding class, and I was able to combine the techniques with behavioral science to make a behavioral coaching model.” Interested in the intersection of behavioral science and business studies, Shar researched nudges and policies that could be used to improve employee satisfaction in the workplace. His capstone project proposed tools such as negotiation workshops for recruiters and offering employees autonomy in choices such as workstation location.
As a research associate at the Harvard Business School, Shar provides research assistance to a marketing professor and a professor in the Negotiations, Organizations and Markets department. Working alongside faculty researchers who focus on pro-sociality and social influence, Shar is gaining valuable experience in reviewing literature, experiment design, and data analysis that help him prepare for graduate school. He encourages prospective students to take advantage of as many of the MBDS program’s research opportunities as possible. “You’re only in the program for one year, so you want to make the best of it,” he says. “Research experience can be applied to any field you do.”