Thomas McKean

Headshot of Thomas McKean


KU major: Double major in Behavioral Neuroscience & Economics, Class of 2015

Current occupation: Financial Analytics at Bloomberg

Research mentors while at KU: Derek Reed, Cary Savage, Evangelia Chrysikou

Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU: While an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to work on several research projects. I was a research assistant at the medical school for Dr. Savage's work on obesity, exercise and dieting, I worked on a semester long project in Dr. Chrysikou's Pysc 625 class on the topic of physiology and poverty, and I was a research assistant in Dr. Reed's lab, where I compared behavioral economics to conventional economics.


Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research? 

A: Research for me has always been about finding ways to study what I cannot study in regular coursework. As an undergrad, I found myself taking courses in everything from financial accounting to chemistry to human behavioral genetics to structural equation modeling to the economics of growth. But despite KU’s large course selection, there are still topics that do not have a textbook (that someone at KU is likely researching). Research was a way to further explore my interests.


Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?

A: Know what you are getting yourself into! Set clear expectations with the faculty members you are working for and understand fully the amount of time you must commit.


Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation?  How so?

A: Analytical problem solving and reasoning, statistics and creativity are all skills I use at work. Despite the fact that what you learn doing research can seem intangible sometimes, there are many skills you can take away that are relevant in the business world. My undergraduate research certainly made me more marketable to employers. Research also signals that you are a critical thinker and passionate about learning different subjects.


Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?

A:  Do as much as you can now to know what will make you the happiest later (easier said than done). Understand all of the pros and cons of the options out there and make both a logical and emotional decision based on what you value most. For me, it came down to time, money, interest and purpose. I look for ways in my career, education, and philanthropy to maximize all of these things.