Twelve for ’12 (continued)

Justin Stewart reclines with his favorite books on game theory, including John Von Neumann’s and Oskar Morgenstern’s 1944 classic, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.  Photo by Matt D'Annunzio

Justin Stewart mathematics-economics

Hometown: Whittier, California

Advisers: Jon Rork [economics 2010–] and Albyn Jones [statistics 1986–]

Thesis: Randomness as Fairness

What it’s about: A classic model, the ultimatum game, is used in game theory to examine bargaining behavior. I consider the possible mechanisms underlying the discrepancy between how economic theory suggests individuals should behave and how they do behave.

What it’s really about: Understanding the difference between economic theory and economic reality.

When I got to Reed I was: A commercial model, traveling to New York and Paris for assignments. As a kid you can’t have a more fun lifestyle. But when I got to Reed I realized it wasn’t all that important or significant. In modeling you don’t move ahead based on anything but looks. Here the scrutiny is how good is your work, how good is your presentation? My interests have shifted. I don’t care if I’m at the best party anymore. What I pay attention to now is am I getting the research grant that’s on the table?

Influential book: E. Roy Weintraub’s How Economics Became a Mathematical Science 

Favorite spot: The temperature is optimal at the third table in the library basement by the windows facing the ETC. The amount of great work that I have completed at that specific table is incredible.

Random thoughts: One of the most fascinating things about mathematics is its precision. I can say something and there’s no ambiguity whatsoever. Mathematics opens up a world that is not even possible in reality. It allows your mind to participate in an alternative reality that is beyond our senses.

Cool stuff I did: Studied abroad in England, created an econometric model to forecast national consumer behavior using Twitter, really got into yoga and the philosophy of computation  as taught by Mark Bedau ’76 [philosophy 1991–].

How Reed changed me: The exposure to Reed’s brilliant professors, inspiring and intelligent classmates, and fascinating questions and problems developed within me an incredible desire to learn. Finding and developing this new passion over the last four years made my decision to attend Reed one of the best in my life.

What’s next: Summer research with Professor Bedau, then I’m off to the University of Pittsburgh to pursue a PhD in economics.

VIDEO: Justin Stewart

Give and Take. By studying the Ultimatum Game, Justin Stewart ’12 analyses discrepancies between economic theory and the reality.