Maskin Named University Professor

UPDATED: Sept. 11, 2012, at 12:16 p.m.

Economics professor Eric S. Maskin ’72, who won a Nobel Prize in 2007 for his contributions to the field of game theory, has been appointed a University Professor, joining 22 other faculty members who hold Harvard’s most prestigious post.

Maskin, who will serve as the Adams University Professor, said that he was “thrilled” and “honored” to earn the position. Though he concentrated in mathematics as an undergraduate, Maskin is most celebrated for his research in informational economics and mechanism design theory.

Maskin began his academic career at M.I.T. before coming to Harvard in 1985. He left Harvard in 2000 to research at the Institute for Advanced Study, an academic center that has attracted great minds such as Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

In 2012, Maskin rejoined the economics department at Harvard.

“The opportunity to attract back a faculty member this distinguished was irresistible to the Dean,” said economics professor John Y. Campbell, who chaired the department when Maskin returned. “He is not only an outstanding researcher but also an outstanding citizen of the university.”

As a University Professor, Maskin can now engage in interdisciplinary research at any of Harvard’s schools.

“I’ll have the freedom to teach not just in the economics department, but outside,” he said. “Given my interests, that’s very appealing.”

Maskin’s research intersects with several diverse fields, including political science, law, biology, and psychology, among others.

“I like to work on a number of things simultaneously,” he said. “If you're working on a variety of projects and if you get stuck on one of them you can move to another without grinding your gears indefinitely.”

In addition, the New Jersey native said that he hopes to design and co-teach an “interesting interdisciplinary course” with another professor at Harvard and pursue his current interests in voting schemes, income inequality, intellectual property rights, and other issues.

Already, Maskin has begun researching and teaching with a variety of other professors.

Many professors are eager to collaborate with Maskin.

Longtime colleague and mathematics professor Benedict H. Gross ’71, who was unable to be reached by phone, wrote in an emailed statement that he has already proposed that Maskin teach a course in the math department.

This fall, Maskin and fellow University Professor Amartya Sen are co-teaching Economics 2082: “Social Choice Theory.”

Sen, who said he was on his way to discuss course readings with Maskin over lunch following the interview, reflected on his colleague’s strength in both research and teaching.

“Eric Maskin is a stunning economist,” Sen said. “He’s an absolutely wonderful person to teach a joint class with.”


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