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Faculty Research Award Recipient: Umut Dur, Economics

The Poole College Board of Advisers has provided financial support for a new awards program recognizing faculty for research productivity. These outstanding scholars, named in May, receive a monetary award and carry the honorary title of Poole Advisory Board Scholar for the 2017-18 academic year. Meet one of them: Umut Dur, assistant professor of economics, Department of Economics.

Umut Dur
Assistant Professor, Economics
Ph.D., Economics, University of Texas at Austin, 2013

Q. What are your research interests?

I am an economic theorist with an emphasis on matching theory and market design. I mainly work on school choice and student exchange programs. In addition to the economic theory, I benefit from computational economics and experimental economics in my research.

Q. What drew you to this line of research? What drives your passion for it?

Matching theory is considered engineering economics since it requires observation of problems in the field and coming up with a solution which can be used by policy makers. My engineering background (I have a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Bogazici University, Turkey) helps me adapt to this process. Moreover, this field of study has helped me to collaborate with policy makers in developing our end products; for example, a new school assignment mechanism.

Q. What are your intentions for your research? Problems to solve, opening the door to new research/paths of knowledge, ways of looking at/doing things? If your research is done collaboratively, you can touch on that as well.

I work on student assignment systems. Usually school districts will start using an assignment mechanism before consulting with economists. My approach is to first observe the possible problems in the current assignment system. Then, I contact the school districts with possible theoretical solutions to the problems they are facing. School districts that can collaborate with us to fix the problems. This process provides access to rich data sets which can be used for further economic analysis. We theorists collaborate with the econometricians to analyze the data sets and initiate empirical research agendas together.

Q. How does your research impact your teaching? If not the content directly, then through what you personally gain through the research process.

I am teaching a research seminar course for undergraduate students in which I require the students to write an academic paper on a matching market. They basically focus on a market that they have experience with, such as college admissions, on-campus housing allocation and course allocations. I act as their advisor throughout the writing process of their research papers. While doing this, I learn many things from the matching markets, which then leads me to further questions that I can research.