26 February 2010 12:00AM
“The main reason I came back to the area is because of the economics department at Duke – people here are passionate about doing research,” said Assistant Professor Jimmy Roberts. “It’s a department on the rise, and folks are always trying to improve it – they aren’t complacent.”
After growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, Roberts first came to the department’s attention six years ago when he won Best Paper and Participant for the Duke University Undergraduate Economics Research Symposium, while he was an economics student at Davidson College.
Fast-forward a few years and Roberts is now a member of the economics faculty, after earning his Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern University in 2009. His research specialties are industrial organization, auctions and applied microeconomics.
“Generally, I’m trying to improve our ability to make counterfactual statements in economic contexts. Oftentimes this boils down to getting a better handle on demand,” said Roberts, whose recent focus has been on predatory bidding and other auction work. “These topics are exciting and grabbed my attention.”
Part of the attraction of auctions in particular is the ability to test theories. “Auction settings are good because the rules of the game are well defined,” Roberts explains. “For example, what if the government auctions timberland to be harvested - should we try to subsidize small loggers so that they can participate?” he asks. “We answer the question by estimating unobserved demand, then run simulations to predict what effect policies may have.”
Roberts is also analyzing situations in which a firm might bid aggressively and even take a loss in order to run a competitor out of business, known as predatory bidding.
Beyond his research, Roberts enthusiastically participates in other department activities, which has forced him to refine his time-management skills.“It’s about figuring out how to allocate my time because of the many opportunities offered here,” he said.
Research, attending workshops, designing seminars and helping with recruitment fill most of his time. “It’s a department where a person can be as active as they want and will be listened to," said Roberts. "I think this encourages more participation than if it were mandated.”
Learn more about Professor Roberts at his profile page.