Behind the kind smile and playful demeanor resides a powerhouse mathematician.
Yongyang Cai, a computational and environmental economist, who recently joined AEDE as associate professor of global economic modeling, has graduate degrees in financial mathematics and computational and mathematical engineering from Stanford University. He has already made a name for himself as a well-respected researcher through his extensive exploration of computational economics and the dynamic stochastic integration of climate and economics.
In addition to his work in computational economics and climate change, Cai also has broad interests in finance, energy economics, urban economics and resource economics.
While in graduate school, he studied under Kenneth Judd, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a world-recognized expert in computational economics. Judd had a great impact on the young scholar, leading Cai to formally focus on the field of computational economics.
Prior to joining Ohio State, Cai was a senior research scientist at the Becker Friedman Institute and the Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy at the University of Chicago, which led him to the field of climate change economics.
Cai has written or co-written 14 peer-reviewed papers that have been published in leading academic journals, including Nature Climate Change, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Computers & Operations Research, Journal of the European Economic Association, and Quantitative Economics, among others.
One reason that he was attracted to his new position at Ohio State is the fact that it is partly funded by Ohio State’s Discovery Themes initiative, and in particular, the Sustainable and Resilient Economy program, which focuses on advancing cutting-edge research in sustainability science and solutions that accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon economy.
“My background is very interdisciplinary,” Cai explains. “I formally studied computational and mathematical engineering – even in the name you can see the nature of the interdisciplinary work that I do. And, then you add in my work on economics and climate change, making my program of research truly multi-faceted. The fact that the Discovery Themes focus on interdisciplinary collaboration was very attractive to me.”
Cai is working on developing his teaching curriculum, which will be focused in the department’s graduate program. He hopes to offer a course on computational economic techniques and their application to climate change. He also hopes to bring new ways of solving economic challenges to the AEDE program.
“I would like to introduce students to some of the other tools in the field outside of MATLAB,” he says. “I was trained in GAMS, a high-level modeling system for mathematical programming problems, which I would like to bring to the program as I think it will enhance students’ ability to solve problems. I would also like to introduce supercomputing to students so they will be able to solve huge problems in the future.”
Cai is more than happy to take on his new role at Ohio State. “I feel very, very good about being in this environment. My interaction with my new colleagues and the department’s staff and students has been great,” he says. “I really enjoyed visiting Ohio State when I interviewed – I felt that this was a comfortable place, very encouraging and I really liked the culture here. And, Ohio State is a famous research institution and the department is very well known for its applied economics research, which I’m excited to be affiliated with.”
When he’s not wearing his economist hat, Cai likes to bike and listen to music. In his youth, he was known as a Go aficionado. Go is a strategy board game that originated in ancient China and which is very popular in Asia. “I like to play Go but there are not many places to play in the U.S. so sometimes I play on the internet,” he says.