Zachary King’s Interest in Pursuing His Ph.D. Fostered at Rutgers–Camden

Zachary King

By Jeanne Leong

When Zachary King arrived at Rutgers University–Camden in his junior year, his career aspirations included working in financial advising or becoming a trader on Wall Street, but he soon discovered that his real passion is becoming an educator.

As a research assistant for David Pedersen, an assistant professor of finance at the Rutgers School of Business–Camden, King experienced the life of an academic, and he was hooked.

While working with Pederson, King conducted research on mergers and acquisitions, collected data on executive compensation, and conducted statistical analyses using data analysis software to analyze, manage, and produce graphical visualizations of data.

“Getting involved in research while I was at Rutgers is what opened up the conversation with professors about what it meant to get a Ph.D. and what you have to do to get into a Ph.D. program,” says King.

“He is able to comprehend large amounts of information in short time periods with near perfect understanding and retention,” says Andrei Nikiforov, an assistant professor of finance at Rutgers University–Camden. “He really didn’t think about a career in academia until I strongly encouraged him to consider it. He was on the fence for a long time period before fully committing to becoming a professor.”

A 2016 Rutgers School of Business–Camden graduate, King is now pursuing a Ph.D. in accounting at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Before King started the Ph.D. program, he had several months off, and when he heard that knowing the Python programming language was a valuable tool, he taught himself the program by reading books about it.

King says senior faculty turn to him for technical research assistance including when they need someone to handle complex computer programming.

“A lot of times, the role of the more senior people is more to know the literature, and research ideas and concepts, and the younger people do the technical research assistant work, like programming,” says King. “When they have ideas that require complex programming, they usually look to me since I am just a first-year Ph.D. student.”

In his doctoral program, King is conducting research on intangible assets, things that are not physical in nature, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, business methodologies, and brand recognition. He’s also teaching an undergraduate Introductory Financial Accounting course.

King’s path to pursuing his Ph.D. began after graduating from Haddon Township High School in 2008.  He attended the University of Alabama, but dropped out after one year. “College was not for me, right then,” says King.

After returning home to Haddon Township, he worked as a carpenter’s apprentice for several months and was laid off from that job.  For a few years, he was a bartender at the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia, then worked at the Capital Grille restaurant, before deciding to return to college. While he was taking classes at Camden County College, he worked full-time at the restaurant, and continued working during his junior year at Rutgers–Camden. King says it was difficult to juggle his job and being a full-time student, but he made it work.

“I had to be extremely attentive in class so that I could absorb the material there instead of studying it later when exam time rolled around.”

At Rutgers–Camden, he excelled. King’s professors still sing his praises.

“Here at Camden, every professor I know considered Zach the smartest kid they ever met,” says Nikiforov.

“I just got involved in research and decided that that was the thing for me,” says King.

King is expected to complete his Ph.D. in accounting in 2021.

“I guess when I was working at restaurants, the last thing I thought that I would be doing is getting a doctorate,” says King. “It’s not really about getting a Ph.D.  It’s about getting to do what I want to do for a living.”

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