Zhixia Ma

Feature Story
Photo of Zhixia (Summer) Ma
Degree: 
Ph.D. Economics
Year Graduated: 
2016

Zhixia (Summer) Ma

Other Degrees
M.A. Economics, Duke University, North Carolina 2011
B. E. Building Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China 2009

Current employment:  Agriculture Bank of China

Zhixia Ma has always been good with numbers. As early as primary school in her hometown of Beijing, she knew she wanted to pursue a career that involved math or physical sciences.

After receiving her bachelors of engineering from Tsinghua University, she traveled to the U.S. for her graduate work. She earned a masters of art in economics from Duke University in 2011 and applied to several graduate schools in the U.S. She was impressed by Iowa State when she visited a chemistry grad student friend in Ames.

“It’s a nice town, and you have everything around campus very near, very close. It’s good to study for a Ph.D. in this place, it’s very quiet, and you can focus on your research rather than just having a job. The economics department and building are so big, with big offices and desks, which is good when you are going to be here for five years.”

After her expected graduation in May, Ma will begin a new position as a research economist with a commercial bank in Beijing. She looks forward to living at home again with her husband, her family, and friends after being away for seven years. Ma and her husband, a college classmate, married in 2012. He has a Ph.D. and is doing his post-doc in mechanical engineering in Beijing.

Ma, whose research dissertation is titled, “Business Cycles with Asset Fire Sales” is one of two grad student recipients of the 2015 James R. Prescott Scholarship in Economics. Funded by a gift to the ISU Foundation from former faculty member James Prescott and his wife, Jeri, the scholarship was established to recognize graduate students who demonstrate creativity in their research.

“I’m excited about winning the scholarship because it’s a reward for your work. In undergraduate study, when you have a scholarship, it’s not only based on your academic work, but also your social work. If you volunteer and do other stuff, they combine all these things together and consider whether to give you the scholarship or not. But this is only about the research and nothing else. I think that means I’m really good at this particular area of research.”

Co-major Professors Harvey Lapan and Rajesh Singh have offered Ma valuable direction and support in her work. She’s amazed how, in a minute, they are able to summarize her model that she needs 20 minutes to present. But she appreciates that in addition to physical science skills, the economics profession requires the ability to express yourself, to explain complicated concepts.

“That’s why I think it’s very challenging—that’s why I chose this.”

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