Visiting Prof at Stanford Wins Nobel Prize

Alvin Roth, a former Harvard University professor who will become a Stanford faculty member next fall

Monday, Oct 15, 2012  |  Updated 7:34 PM PDT
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A visiting professor at Stanford University has won the Nobel Prize in economics.

A visiting professor at Stanford University has won the Nobel Prize in economics.

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A visiting professor at Stanford University has won the Nobel Prize in economics.

Alvin Roth, a former Harvard University professor who will become a Stanford faculty member next fall, said he was honored and surprised when he got an early morning call from the Nobel Committee telling him he had won.

"We didn't reach the phone in time, but they called back," Roth said.

The economist said that the committee members who called from Sweden spent a good deal of effort convincing him that the phone call wasn't a prank.

"Apparently they sometimes have trouble convincing people," Roth said.

Roth and University of California at Los Angeles professor emeritus Lloyd Shapely will share the Nobel honor and a $1.2 million prize for their work developing matching algorithms that take the principles of supply and demand and apply them in innovative ways.

Their work has been used, among other applications, to design a nationwide kidney exchange in which potential donors are appropriately matched with patients needing transplants.

Roth said he also worked with public school districts in New York City and Boston to develop a system of placing students in schools with available space that best matched family preferences.

At a news conference at Stanford University this morning, Roth acknowledged dozens of his students in the room, who gave him an enthusiastic standing ovation.

"It's a good sign," Roth said. "It means economics is thriving."

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