New faculty profile: Thomas Rutherford

Thomas Rutherford joined the faculty as a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in January 2012. He is part of the optimization research program at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Please describe your career path.
I moved to UW-Madison from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich where I held a chair in energy economics.  Previously I was in economics department at the University of Colorado (1992 to 2004), the University of Western Ontario (1987-1992).  My undergraduate education was in Engineering and Applied Science (at Yale) and in Operations Research (at Stanford).  I spent one year as a post-doctoral fellow working with Herb Scarf at the Cowles Foundation at Yale.  My most formative life experience was my two years as a Peace Corps volunteer when I worked as a suspension bridge engineer in Lamjung District, Nepal (from 1977 to 1979).  I went to graduate school thinking that I wanted to learn more about how to manage development projects.  At Stanford I met Alan Manne who taught me that planning tools from engineering can be usefully for economic policy analysis.

What is the main focus of your research program?
I do applied economics with calibrated equilibrium models.  I typically work on trade and environment topics.  I also like to work with urban and transportation models, and I also work on computational methodology.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
I have known Michael Ferris for a long time and welcomed the opportunity to join his optimization research group.  I like the AAE department where there is a lot of overlap with my research interests. Finally, I have long time family connections to Madison.  I graduated from Madison East in 1973, and my parents lived in the Madison area for many years.