Carnegie Mellon University


June 08, 2018

Lester and Judith Lave Professorship Reception

At an evening reception Monday, May 14, 2018, held at the Posner Center, Nicholas Muller was recognized as the Lester and Judith Lave Associate Professor of Economics, Engineering and Public Policy.

The professorship is a joint appointment between the Tepper School of Business and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at the College of Engineering. “The fact that the chair was designed to hold appointments in both Tepper and EPP underscores an important point,” Muller said during his remarks. “Interdisciplinary work is often if not always necessary or central to tackling many of society’s most pressing problems.”

Muller is the first recipient of the chair, designated for a faculty member with an undergraduate background in engineering or the natural sciences and a doctorate in economics, whose research focuses on public policy.

A series of speakers took the podium at the reception to introduce the professorship and Muller, beginning with Laurie Weingart, interim provost for Carnegie Mellon University, Richard M. and Margaret S. Cyert Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory. “These endowed chairs are one of the highest honors we give our faculty,” she said. “It’s a way we can recognize not only their scholarship and academic achievement, but also it’s a way to recruit and retain outstanding scholars and support their research for many years to come.”

Many of the remarks highlighted the parallels between Muller’s work and that of Lester Lave, who was the Harry B. and James H. Higgins Professor of Economics at the business school and had been recognized by Carnegie Mellon University as a University Professor — the highest distinction conferred by the university. Before his death in 2011, he had served as director of the Carnegie Mellon Green Design Initiative and co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center. “Lester Lave was not only the embodiment of an interdisciplinary mindset, but also one of its fiercest proponents,” James Garrett, dean of the College of Engineering, said.

Judith Lave, an emerita professor of health economics with the University of Pittsburgh, told the story of how the professorship came to be, particularly the difficulty in finding the right scholar for the chair. “The ideal candidate, as you know, was Lester Lave,” she said. “But the real Lester Lave had evolved into who he was over a period of decades. And it is not even obvious that the 40-year-old Lester Lave would have satisfied the criteria for this chair.” But she had found Muller to represent a great deal of what she and her husband had hoped to support with their gift.

Douglas Sicker, head of the Department of Engineering and Public Policy in the College of Engineering, called Muller a “perfect match” for the position. “It turned out that the folks at Tepper thought he was too much of an engineer, and the folks in engineering thought he was too much of an economist. That’s when I knew we had the right person,” he said.

Tepper School Dean Robert Dammon introduced Muller with an in-depth biography detailing his education and research. “His work is on timely and important topics,” Dammon said. “We have no doubt that Nick’s work in economics, engineering and public policy is exactly the sort of interdisciplinary research that Lester and Judy had in mind when they endowed this faculty chair.”

Muller holds a Ph.D. in environmental and natural resource economics from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, and earned a master of public affairs in environmental policy and public financial administration from Indiana University in Bloomington. His bachelor’s degree is in public policy, planning and management, earned at the University of Oregon.

His research focuses on the intersection of environmental policy and economics. In particular, much of his recent work has been examining the economic impacts of air pollution. His work has been published in economic and policy journals, including American Economic Review, Energy Policy, and Environmental Science and Technology.

Muller joined the Tepper School full-time in July 2017, after serving as a visiting professor in fall 2015. He was previously an associate professor in the Department of Economics and the Environmental Studies program at Middlebury College. He serves as a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research and on the Science Advisory Board’s Panel on the Economy-Wide Modeling of the Benefits and Costs of Environmental Regulation for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, earning the United States Environmental Protection Agency Scientific and Technological Advancement Award, Level II in 2013.

“Becoming the Lester and Judith Lave Associate Professor of Economics, Engineering and Public Policy is truly the opportunity of a lifetime,” Muller said, closing his speech to raucous applause.