Good decisions

Robert Pindyck named Teacher of the Year Award winner

Robert Pindyck

It takes a special professor to take a course even he calls “extremely demanding” and make it a student favorite, but Professor Robert Pindyck has done just that with his popular and rigorous Industrial Economics for Strategic Decisions.

Pindyck, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd. Professor of Economics and Finance — and a 2007 Teacher of the Year Award winner — believes in encouraging his students to participate in class with a syllabus that includes a semester-long oligopoly game, group exercises, and a lot of class discussion.

Judging from the course's popularity, the students are up to the challenge. Each of the two semester-long sections is open to 80 students and the slots fill quickly, usually with at least 50 hopefuls on the waiting list.

For Pindyck, part of the joy of teaching graduate students is their level of knowledge. “These are second year MBA's who already know a fair amount,” he says. “I can do stuff at a fairly advanced level.”

Home-grown favorite

Although he calls research “my main job,” teaching is something Pindyck takes very seriously. “I put a lot of energy into it,” he says.

Pindyck earned both SB and SM degrees from the MIT in electrical engineering in 1966 and 1967, then shifted to economics and completed his PhD in 1971. Since then, he has been at MIT Sloan.

Pindyck's research focuses on irreversible investment decisions, the role of network effects in market structure, and the behavior of commodity and financial markets.

He has authored many papers and books, including co-authoring Investment Under Uncertainty (Princeton University Press, 1994). That book showed that the “net present value” rule for capital investment decisions ignores the irreversibility of most investment decisions and the option of delaying an investment. Pindyck's more recent work has extended some of the same ideas to the timing and design of environmental policy. “There is a lot of uncertainty around the impact of global warming,” says Pindyck.

Outside of work, Pindyck, who has a wife and three grown daughters, counts travel among his main interests. He has been a visiting professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and visits there regularly. He also travels and lectures frequently in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

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