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UCLA Professor Emeritus Awarded Nobel Prize

Lloyd Shapley woke up to knocks on his door Monday morning with news he'd won the prestigious award.

A Professor Emeritus at the University of California Los Angeles was awarded the Nobel Economics Prize Monday despite "never" taking a course in economics.

Lloyd Shapley, 89, won the award for work in match-making that occurs between doctors and hospitals, schools and prospective students, and organs with transplant recipients.

He has been a professor at UCLA since 1981. Shapley paired with Harvard Business School Professor Alvin Roth to develop "the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design."

Professor Emeritus at UCLA Lloyd Shapley. (Photo courtesy UCLA)
Professor Emeritus at UCLA Lloyd Shapley. (Photo courtesy UCLA)
The award was given to the professors for their theory's contribution to analyzing match-making in many different markets.

"I consider myself a mathematician and the award is for economics," Shapley said. "I never, never in my life took a course in economics."

Shapley learned he won the award when an AP journalist and photographer knocked on the door of his home in Los Angeles Monday morning. Roth, a current visiting professor at Stanford University, was also in California, and learned of his award after a telephone call from the prize committee at 3:30 a.m.

"My wife is going to go out to get us some coffee," Roth said. "And maybe we'll absorb it."

Shapley and U.S. economist David Gale developed a mathematical algorithm in the 1950s and 1960s explaining how 10 men and 10 women could be paired in a way that no two people would prefer another over their current couple. Roth then applied that formula in the 1990s to allocating student doctors to hospitals.

Roth then used the algorithm for reformatting the New York City public school application process so that fewer students would be placed in a school not in their top choices. The formula has also been applied to matching kidneys with patients in organ transplants.

Prize committee member Peter Gardenfors said the prizewinners' work could even be applied to additional markets like housing allocation.

"There are economic problems that can't be solved with normal market mechanisms," Gardenfors said.

"With these matchings there is no money involved so the main thing is to follow what kind of preferences people have."


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