Nobel Prize winner comes to UAA

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Vernon Smith, co-winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, has come to the University of Alaska Anchorage as a visiting scholar.

Smith, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., is the first to occupy the Rasmuson Chair in Economics, said Diane Kaplan, Rasmuson Foundation president. Alaska banker and philanthropist Elmer Rasmuson gave the university $5 million for the position, hoping to stimulate a world-class economics department.

Smith, 76, shared the Nobel Prize with Princeton University economics professor Daniel Kahneman. Smith is credited with pioneering experimental economics in the mid-1950s. He was the first to test market theories on real people in a laboratory, researching buying and selling patterns.

The academy singled out his use of ''wind-tunnel tests,'' where trials of new, alternative market designs are done in the laboratory before being implemented.

Wearing a ponytail and cowboy boots, Smith cuts a down-to-earth figure and prefers a discussion to giving lectures. He said he is interested in learning more about Alaska, but he has some experience with the state already.

In 1965, he drove to Circle, as far north as he could then, with family and dogs and trailer in tow. He returned for a fly-in fishing trip in Southeast and finally to Anchorage in 1989 with his wife, Candace, a former teacher and economics education consultant.

UAA economics associate professor Paul Johnson said Smith's research background could provide fresh perspectives on problems Alaska has been tossing around for decades.

Smith said that he could draw on his experience with other economies around the world to help but that it would be up to Alaska to come up with goals and solutions.

''I'm not here to pontificate,'' Smith said.

Based at UAA for the summer, Smith will work with faculty from different departments as well as high school economics teachers from around the state. He will leave in September but come back for visits in the fall and spring, speaking in classes and following up with researchers.

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