Ec Department Tenures 3rd Female Professor

Economic theorist Susan C. Athey will join Harvard’s faculty this summer, becoming the third tenured female economics professor in the University’s history.

Athey, 35, is well-known for her research on industrial organization, a field of economics that deals with the behavior of firms and market structures. Some of her most acclaimed work has focused on timber auctions, and she has advised forestry officials in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

According to Professor of Economics David I. Laibson ’88, Athey will bring a new perspective to the economics department.

“Athey is one of the leading economists in the world working at the boundary of industrial organization and economic theory,” Laibson wrote in an e-mail. “She will serve as a bridge between these two fields within our department.”

In 2001, the American Economics Association awarded Athey the Elaine Bennett Research Prize, given every two years to the nation’s best young female economist. In 1999, the National Science Foundation gave her a CAREER award for “teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education.”

Athey spent the fall at Harvard as a visiting professor in economics. She taught three graduate courses on industrial organization.

She returns to Cambridge after a six-year stint at MIT, from 1995 to 2001. Her move from Cambridge to Stanford in 2001 was cited by The New York Times that year as a sign of the MIT economic department’s declining stature.

Athey also works at the Cambridge-based National Bureau of Economics Research.

Athey wrote in an e-mail that her experience in the fall and Harvard’s goal of hiring more female professors influenced her decision to return.

“During my semester at Harvard, I got the chance to interact with Harvard’s terrific faculty and students,” Athey wrote. “I was particularly pleased with the recent progress towards making the university more welcoming to women faculty, especially the adoption of the recommendations by the task forces on women.”

Athey said that she will only teach graduate courses next year, because she will be on maternity leave next fall. She added that she wants to teach a new course for undergraduates on economic markets in the 2007-2008 academic year.

Athey said that she is excited to research at Harvard.

“I hope to take my research in new directions through collaboration with Harvard’s outstanding faculty, whose expertise in areas such as health economics and matching markets will hopefully

stimulate new thinking for me,” Athey wrote.

The chair of the economics department, Alberto F. Alesina, wrote in an e-mail that Athey “is a fantastic addition” to Harvard’s faculty.

“She is extremely energetic and committed to her students, both undergraduate and graduate,” Alesina wrote.

The first female to hold a tenured chair in economics at Harvard, Claudia Goldin, also praised Athey’s teaching abilities.

“She is a terrific teacher who is dedicated to the teaching and mentoring of students—particularly female students,” Goldin, the Lee professor of economics, wrote in an e-mail.

—Staff writer Adrian J. Smith can be reached at