UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Ph.D. Students Wu and Weill Learn Cutting-Edge Computational Methods at nICE2018

Aug. 31, 2018

Second-year ARE Ph.D. students Xiurou Wu and Joakim Weill look forward to implementing knowledge recently gained from the new Initiative for Computational Economics (nICE2018) summer program at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

“I enjoyed my two weeks where I learned really state-of-the-art numerical methods,” Wu said. “Speakers covered topics from algorithms and methods to available computational resources. Also, I met professors and other graduate students who are using advanced computational tools in their research.”

Wu’s current environmental and natural resource economics research focuses on a problem involving the rare and endangered Siberian Crane species, local fisheries, hydrology, and within-season variation. She looks forward to how the many modeling tools and free computational resources learned about at nICE2018 will benefit her research.

“The techniques, coding skills, and computational resources will greatly enhance my productivity,” Wu added.

Weill said he appreciated how prominent speakers such as Ken Judd, Larry Kotlikoff, and Todd Munson presented nICE2018 attendees with complex optimization problems that frequently arise in economics, and provided the tools to solve them efficiently.

“I was surprised to see that the speakers approached computational methods as much an art than a science,” he said. “Often times, the basic numerical methods lead the computer to deliver an answer, but upon closer examination this answer turns out to be completely flawed. We learned a few tricks to asses the validity of such results and developed our intuition in order to spot numerical errors. We also looked at many such mistaken results that were published in great journals, which shows how easy it is to get deceived by the black-box type of methods we sometimes use!”

Weill’s current environmental and development economics research includes projects about the role of biodiversity in human health in Central America, and the political determinants of air pollution in Brazil. He looks forward to utilizing tools gained from nICE2018 to approach economic problems with a more structural perspective.

“It’s a great complement to the courses we attended in our department,” he added.

The ARE department partially sponsored Weill and Wu to attend nICE2018 via donations to the graduate program. ARE Assistant Professor Bulat Gafarov looks forward to the knowledge gained being shared among graduate student peers.

“This will benefit our resource economics community,” Dr. Gafarov added.

By Joshua Bingham, ARE Outreach Coordinator


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