Mason finance students get resume boost, experience with independent research projects


George Mason University senior Chaitanaya Vij is pursuing a degree in finance, but his main area of interest is in commercial banking and investments. Vij thought committing to a research project on investments would be a good way for him to learn more about the stock market and tailor his resume to investment banking.

“I really wanted some research experience and knew it would help me in my job search,” said Vij, who also has a minor in business analytics.

Vij reached out to Derek Horstmeyer, his Finance 303 professor, and asked if Horstmeyer would help him get a research project going. Vij ended up investigating how COVID-19 was impacting the stock market.

“It was a significant amount of work, but it was worth it,” said Vij.

Derek Horstmeyer
Derek Horstmeyer

In the past few years, Horstmeyer, who specializes in corporate finance at Mason’s School of Business, has guided about 15 students with independent research projects and then helped them get recognition for their work. These students do not get extra credit or class credit for their research, but they do get the satisfaction of finishing a project, the ability to put it on their resume and, in many cases, recognition in business outlets. Their research can be found here.

Horstmeyer, who has helped the students get their work published in business news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, says he enjoys guiding students who are curious enough to do extra independent work.

“These students are hungry for research, and when they reach out to me with ideas, it sparks up a conversation,” said Horstmeyer. “We form a testable hypothesis, and then they work on the research. Students can be very inquisitive, and there’s nothing better than watching them work on answers to the questions they have.”

Tyler Harb, a senior also pursuing a degree in finance, turned to Horstmeyer for help on a research project last year. He ended up studying the costs and benefits of target date funds.

“There were a few moments where I wondered why I had taken on extra work,” said Harb. “But I felt like it was an opportunity to expand my real-world knowledge of financial topics, and it ended up being a cool way to expand my own experience. It also ended up being a great opportunity just to get my name out.”

Vij urges other finance students to give research a shot.

“This is college. It’s the time to try things out,” said Vij. “There’s nothing to lose by trying. The worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t get published. The best thing is it seen by millions of people.”