The Science of Management

Business professor brings an innovative approach to helping students prepare for modern work life

Finding commonality between the principles of physics and the principles of business management might seem impossible for most, but not for Murad Mithani, an associate professor of strategy, international business, and entrepreneurship in the Rutgers School of Business–Camden.

“Physics is integral to mastering an everyday understanding of the world, regardless of what you may be trying to do,” Mithani said. “A better understanding of the natural laws of physics creates a strong foundation to pursue innovative discoveries, whether you are working in data science, finance, or even something like music production.”

Murad Mithani, an associate professor of strategy, international business, and entrepreneurship

Murad Mithani, an associate professor of strategy, international business, and entrepreneurship

Mithani, who was recently promoted and tenured, has spent a career at the intersection of the hard sciences and advanced business management. After receiving an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s in applied mathematics from the University of Karachi in Pakistan, Mithani entered the business world. Eventually, he took on a leadership role with a company focused on consumer technologies before being selected for a unique opportunity at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio: a National Science Foundation program focused on technology and entrepreneurship.

The immersive program was designed to prepare students to extend their focus beyond the classroom or laboratory and push them to think strategically about translating experimental technologies to viable commercial uses.  

“For my master’s thesis, I tried to create a USB-like device that could store energy generated by the human body throughout the day—say, from a regular workout—to power everyday devices like a cell phone,” Mithani said. “Taken further, I was hoping people could store energy from everyday activities—walking, cooking, mowing the lawn—then use that energy instead of the grid as much as possible.” 

While the technology of the time limited Mithani's ability to pursue that idea, the overall experience pushed him to return to academia with a heightened focus on technology, science, and business. He eventually got his Ph.D. in technology and entrepreneurship from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Mithani uses his diverse educational background to help Rutgers–Camden students prepare for the complex world that awaits them after graduation.

“In addition to getting a strong foundation in business, I encourage students to have a strong command of at least one area that is essential to the development of products and services: informatics, data mining, physics, biotechnology, engineering, or whatever they are interested in,” Mithani said. “That will allow them to be of greater value to whatever industry they may eventually choose and helps them see the business landscape more dynamically."

Mithani noted that as the business world becomes more complex, companies are embracing individuals with training in the hard sciences.

“Finance is just one of many industries that has started to recognize the value of using the principles of statistical physics to inform their decisions and investment algorithms,” Mithani said. “Just as statistical physics allows us to predict the likelihood of events, those same insights can be used to predict the likelihood of social processes such as the supply and demand of shares in the stock market.”

In the classroom, Mithani pushes students to develop the ability to be more agile in their thinking, which they can eventually leverage to their advantage in a continuously evolving world.

“I try to bring students as close as possible to the challenges experienced in the real world,” Mithani said. “I do not offer a clear template; the choices they have to make during each class depend on the choices they made during the previous weeks, so each student is on a unique learning trajectory. This helps them start to think differently.”

“Physics is integral to mastering an everyday understanding of the world, regardless of what you may be trying to do.”

– Murad Mithani

Design: Douglas Shelton