2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ilan Lobel, New York University (Stern)

Ilan Lobel

Associate Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences

New York University, Stern School of Business

At just 35, Professor Lobel’s curriculum vitae is already eight pages long. There, you’ll find accolade after accolade for his work as both a prolific researcher and a beloved teacher. Research-wise, he’s one of the most respected and sought after authors. His research–dealing with pricing, contracts, and learning in online markets–has been published 12 times by some of the top-tier academic journals. Likewise, he serves as associate editor for two of his field’s best-known publications.

Then there are the awards and honors. Research grants totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, distinguished service awards, dozens of invited talks and conference presentations.

As a professor, Lobel also excels. Students consistently rank him 6.5 or above (out of 7) for his quality of teaching. In 2015, he was a Professor of the Year nominee.

Age: 35

At current institution since: 2010

Education: PhD, Operations Research, MIT, 2009 and BSc, Electrical Engineering, PUC-Rio, Brazil, 2004.

List of courses you currently teach: Decision Models & Analytics, an elective I teach in both the graduate and the undergraduate programs.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am currently working closely with researchers from Google on pricing and market design questions. Working in this area is really fun because it requires putting together ideas from operations, economics and computer science. My biggest contribution to this topic has been a solution we proposed to an important problem in dynamic auction design.

Professor you most admire: My advisors Asu Ozdaglar, Daron Acemoglu and Munther Dahleh from MIT. Their love for research is infectious and they are incredibly dedicated to the success of their students.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I’ve always wanted to be a professor. I chose to join a business school when I learned that a b-school would let me combine my interest in mathematical methods for decision-making with my goal of having an impact on how companies operate.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I’d probably work in a tech company. Tech companies are really fun places to work and they have really interesting problems to solve.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Excited.

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: I started a tradition of bringing a former student back to my class every year to tell my current students about how they used something they learned in my class during an internship or a job. Having a student share how they use modeling in their work is always a memorable moment.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I was really proud when I learned that my class had secretly nominated me for the Professor of the Year Award. I am also very proud whenever a former or current student says they found my class challenging, but they are much better thinkers because of it.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I love that this job gives me the freedom to follow my curiosity in choosing business problems to work on. I also love the mentoring part of the job.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Anything having to do with grades.

What is your favorite business-themed movie and what is the biggest lesson that MBA students could gain from it? The Big Short. The book is even better. It teaches you the value of knowing how to use data for decision-making.

What is your favorite company and why? I love companies that invest heavily in scientific research, such as Google and Microsoft. Disclosure: I work or have worked with both companies.

Fun fact about yourself: I met my wife by crashing into her while learning how to ski. It was just like in a romantic comedy.

Bucket list item #1: I’d like to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef one day.

Favorite book: The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker. It’s a really uplifting book. It argues that the world is slowly becoming a more peaceful place.

Favorite movie: I love Wes Anderson movies.

Favorite type of music: Indie rock.

Favorite television show: The Profit. You can learn a good deal of operations management by watching this show.

Favorite vacation spot: Palawan Island in the Philippines. I recommend the slow boat from Coron to El Nido where you sleep each night in a different desert island.

What are your hobbies? Hiking, skiing, scuba diving and exploring the different neighborhoods of New York City.

Twitter handle: I don’t use Twitter.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…a lot more classes teaching students how to think creatively and rigorously.”

Faculty says…

“He teaches a class on Decision Models & Analytics using a hands-on, experiential approach. His class is tremendously successful. His most recent student evaluations were 6.8/7.0 and 7.0/7.0, and the students rave about him (see student quotes). He has been nominated for the Stern Professor of the Year Award.   Ilan’s research focuses on issues of pricing, contracts and learning in online markets. He is a prolific author, having published 12 top-tier articles journals. His work is very highly regarded by his peers. He serves as an associate editor of the top two journals in our field, Management Science and Operations Research. He won the 2014 Revenue Management and Pricing Prize, awarded for the best contribution to the field over a five-year period. He has collaborated with IBM and Microsoft and has recently advised Google on how to improve the design of its ad auctions platform.”


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