Chris Liu is an assistant professor in the Department of Management at the Lundquist College of Business. His expertise includes spatial networks, firm innovation and productivity, and organization of science. Liu’s research was published in journals including Sociology of Development, Academy of Management Discoveries, and American Journal of Sociology.
Liu received his DBA in technology and operations management from Harvard University, PhD in biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and BA in biology from Washington University, St. Louis. Prior to joining the Lundquist College, Liu taught at various universities including the University of Toronto and co-founded PowerTen LLC.
What is your current research?
My research is centered at the interface between scientific labs and management, particularly new entrepreneurial scientific labs. I believe that many managers of scientific labs are superbly trained scientists trying to change the world. And yet, many of them have not received formal training in management. Conversely, data on the genesis of scientific labs is often a rich complement to more traditional data on entrepreneurial firms. Thus, by looking at this understudied topic, we may be able to provide new answers to long-standing questions in management and entrepreneurship. Currently, I have projects on how high-status parent firms might actually hurt spinoffs by overshadowing them, as well as the factors that distinguish good and bad mentors of new entrepreneurial managers.
What should the public know about your research? Why is it important?
I try to do research that changes the behavior of managers. At first glance, this might seem straightforward. After all, isn’t that what our goal as educators is? Can’t just anybody give advice? However, as an academic, I believe that our standard is set higher. We need to root our guidance on a firm theoretical foundation. Just as important, this guidance can’t be enveloped in academic-speak as to render the guidance unactionable. Thus, in my opinion, the balance between rigor and relevance is a bit like walking on a tightrope, but it’s something I actively attend to.
Why is studying entrepreneurship and innovation relevant for society?
Entrepreneurial and innovative activity is an intrinsically appealing object of study. Entrepreneurs tend to be business outliers. Innovators are the definition of change agents. They may not always be successful, but they are always interesting!
For a vibrant society, there is the need for a balance between inertial stability and dynamic rejuvenation. In my opinion, the study of entrepreneurial and innovative activity (or lack thereof) is essential for society to learn more about how it functions well, how it functions poorly, and how society might be improved. Lastly, I am incredibly honored to be studying these topics at a flagship state research university, where my research mission is supported by the broader public.