Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Past Winner
2014 NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships

Dr. Kevin Leyton-Brown

Department of Computer Science

The University of British Columbia

Dr. Kevin Leyton-Brown
Dr. Kevin Leyton-Brown

Putting computer science to work on billion-dollar questions

Electronic trading markets have become critical to many sectors of the economy. But their rapid growth has led to increased complexity and computational bottlenecks that make them difficult to manage. The economic consequences of getting it wrong can be devastating. This difficulty was highlighted during the 2008 global financial crisis.

That’s where Dr. Kevin Leyton-Brown is helping. The Stanford University graduate and winner of a 2014 Steacie Memorial Fellowship is working at the intersection of computer science and microeconomics to develop mathematical theories and algorithms that will benefit both buyers and sellers by improving how markets make decisions.

For example, his research group came up with novel behavioural models to better predict realistic human behaviour in strategic settings such as electronic trading. He is currently collaborating with Google to evaluate the effects of market rule changes on search engine revenue and buyer/seller satisfaction, particularly involving small companies.

An algorithm arising from Dr. Leyton-Brown’s research is the top contender for use in the United States government’s upcoming $50 billion “incentive auction” of broadcast airwaves, which is likely to be replicated worldwide.

In another project, he and colleagues at Stanford developed two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on game theory—a mathematical foundation of his research. Hundreds of thousands of students from around the world have enrolled over the last year, including thousands from Canada.

And, in Uganda, small farmers are trading surplus produce with simple text messages, based on a system Dr. Leyton-Brown helped to develop. The company he co-founded in 2013 received bids totalling over $1 million in its first six months.