Nobel Laureate in Economics to Join Institute of Mathematical Sciences

Sargent poses with Washington Square arch in background
Sep 24 2021

Nobel Laureate and NYU Professor of Economics and Business Thomas J. Sargent has joined the NYU-ECNU Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU Shanghai. Sargent, a leading scholar of macroeconomics, monetary economics, and time series econometrics who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2011, will help expand the institute’s research scope into the field of mathematical finance. 

“We are all extremely honored to welcome Professor Sargent to Shanghai,” said Institute Co-Director and NYU Shanghai Professor of Mathematics Pierre Tarrès.  “He will work with us on projects at the interface of mathematics and economics, with an emphasis on mathematical finance. His approach will use in particular tools arising from mean field game theory, which enables the mathematical analysis of strategic decision making by small interacting agents in very large populations.”

Sargent said he was looking forward to working with - and learning from - members of the institute, particularly Tarrès and Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Data Science Mathieu Laurière. “As a ‘consumer’ or ‘continuing student,’ I am trying to learn about topics in which both of them are experts,” Sargent said. “They know techniques in stochastic processes, machine learning, approximation theory, and partial differential equations that can be very useful in attacking unsolved problems in macroeconomics, my field of special interest.  I have found that Mathieu and his friends are patient teachers. They have already helped me a lot.”

Sargent arrived at NYU in 2002, becoming NYU’s first W.R. Berkley Professor, a joint appointment by the Economics Department in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Stern School of Business. Sargent has also held professorships at Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Minnesota.  He won the Nemmers Prize in Economics in 1997, and in 1983 was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2011, the Nobel Committee honored Sargent and his colleague, Princeton University Professor Christopher Sims, “for their empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy.”  Sargent studies how the economy can be affected by events and changes in economic policy and has developed methods for examining the relationship between policy and economics. 

Sargent has long been a proponent of mastering and utilizing the most advanced mathematical  techniques to the study of economics. As he has long advised students, "Studying math will open doors to you in terms of interesting economics courses at NYU and job opportunities afterwards,” he said. “My personal opinion is that if you are an undergraduate ... and you are seriously interested in learning as much rigorous economics as you can at NYU, you will be much better off taking one or two additional math and statistics courses rather than spending time and credits writing an undergraduate honors thesis." 

While the pandemic will delay his arrival in Shanghai indefinitely, Sargent said he is already familiar with Shanghai and China, having traveled here for various academic conferences.  “I know some very distinguished economists who work at various Chinese universities, including in Shanghai,” Sargent said. “China's economy is an unprecedented ‘growth miracle,’ and it is actively studied by people in my field. I am very interested in observing and learning about the economy of China and other Asian countries.”

Although Sargent has yet to teach at NYU Shanghai, he said he had taught many NYU Shanghai students during their study away terms in NYU New York and NYU Abu Dhabi. “They were well- trained, very smart, and had a great work ethic.” 

Founded in 2013, the NYU-ECNU Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU Shanghai is dedicated to the development of a unique research and training environment to advance modern mathematics and its applications. The Institute works in close partnership with New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and East China Normal University’s Department of Mathematics.

Research work at the Institute is patterned after the style of mathematics that has become the Courant Institute's trademark since its founding in 1935: strong, dedicated and talented mathematicians working on problems of important scientific, technological, social, or economic consequences and developing the mathematical and computational methods to solve these problems. Research interests at the Institute include theories and applications of probability, nonlinear partial differential equations, fluid dynamics, biology, materials science, computational neuroscience, and mathematical finance.