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February 6, 2014

Nobel laureate to address honors convocation

rothAlvin E. Roth, co-winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in economics and a former Pitt professor, will be the keynote speaker at the University’s Feb. 28 honors convocation.

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg will bestow an honorary doctoral degree on Roth, who completed much of the economics research for which he won the Nobel Prize while serving as Pitt’s first Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Economics, 1982-98. Roth now is the Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford and the George Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard.

Roth won the Nobel Prize along with Lloyd S. Shapley, professor emeritus of economics and mathematics at UCLA, for solving a key economic problem — how to match players in a market in the best possible way.

Beginning in the 1960s, Shapley developed a body of theoretical work in which he used cooperative game theory to study matching. He found that it is important to find a “stable match,” in which there are no two agents who would prefer one another over their current counterparts.

When Roth was a Pitt faculty member in the 1980s, he began using Shapley’s theoretical results to explain how matching happens in practice. He studied the medical job market and eventually began to implement his findings in existing programs like the national resident matching program that matches newly minted doctors with residency positions at hospitals. In another case, he worked with Pitt economics alumnus M. Utku Ünver on a study that led to improvements in the design of a program to match kidney donors with compatible kidney recipients. He also assisted with developing a system for matching students with schools.

Roth earned his bachelor’s in operations research at Columbia and his master’s and PhD in operations research at Stanford.

Honors convocation will be held  at 3 p.m. Feb. 28 in Carnegie Music Hall.