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Chiwei Yan receives Harold W. Kuhn Award

Author: Janine Bufi
May 4, 2022

University of Washington (UW) Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) assistant professor Chiwei Yan has been honored with the 2021 Harold W. Kuhn award. Naval Research Logistics, a premier  journal in operations and logistics research, presented the award to Dr. Chiwei Yan  for his paper “Dynamic pricing and matching in ride-hailing platforms” coauthored with Helin Zhu, Nikita Korolko, and Dawn Woodard

Chiwei Yan

Assistant Professor Chiwei Yan

Each year since 2005, Naval Research Logistics (NRL) gives the Harold W. Kuhn Award to the paper(s) selected as the very best from among all those published over the past three years in the journal. The award is named after the late Harold W. Kuhn, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Princeton University who won the 1980 John von Neumann Theory Prize along with David Gale and Albert W. Tucker. He is best known for the Karush–Kuhn–Tucker conditions and his contributions to the theory of games. From about 160 papers published in NRL during the previous three years from 2018 to 2020 inclusive, the editorial board of Department and Associate Editors nominated 15 papers. This year’s Award Committee of Professors Huseyin Topaloglu (chair), Larry Snyder, Alejandro Toriello, Serhan Ziya selected Chiwei Yan’s and his coauthors’ paper – “Dynamic pricing and matching in ride-hailing platforms,” Naval Research Logistics 67(8), 705-724, 2020, as the winner to receive the 2021 Kuhn Award.

In the citation, the committee noted that “…Ridesharing systems became an important application area for operations research tools over the last decade. The paper demonstrates the power of stylized models in predicting market behavior and provides a foundational model that other researchers can build on to include other practical considerations in ride-sharing systems.

Chiwei is excited about the award that he shares with the coauthors of the paper; colleagues he previously worked with at Uber. “I feel fortunate to have worked where exciting new problems are happening before joining the Department of Industrial Systems and Engineering,” explained Chiwei. “As an academic, I now have the freedom and time to research these problems and do the rigorous math required; Being able to have a career in academic work after working at Uber where problems are happening is a luxury,” he explained. “It is a great honor to be recognized by the Kuhn award — as the inaugural Kuhn award winner, Kuhn’s celebrated Hungarian method for solving the assignment problem is the backbone algorithm for matching riders and drivers in today’s ridesharing platforms.”

Transportation issues have always been an interest for Chiwei; as a doctoral student at MIT, he worked on a range of problems related to air transportation. His current research centers on transportation and logistics problems interacting with online platforms, with ridesharing still being a big part of this work. His work requires interdisciplinary tools from operations, economics, and data science. “Transportation in the past has been problems that were well-framed such as finding the shortest path from an origin to a destination or figuring out the vehicle routes to deliver goods,” he stated. “Transportation problems in the modern context will require a whole different reframing” and all the tools his research can bring.

In talking about this reframing, Chiwei noted that Seattle is the perfect place to explore these questions; as the city has been working to be a model of support for gig economy workers by supplying them with more benefits while still allowing them to keep their independent status; This new model will become more and more important as platform-related jobs become a bigger part of the regional and national economy.