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Heng Liu

Assistant Professor of Economics Examines Mechanism Design in the Workplace

Assistant Professor Heng Liu earned his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Rochester in May of 2015. Heng was drawn to U-M because of its reputation as a top university with a strong economics department and talented researchers. “That was the first criteria when I was looking for jobs. When I got here I found that everything was true. I got more support than expected and I’m very happy being here. At the department level, our chair is very supportive and is always available to give advice and ask how we are doing. In addition to the chair, I got a lot of care from the staff, they were very helpful in my transition here.” Heng is also thankful for the support provided by the theory group in not only checking on the workload, but also in being there to bounce research ideas off of.

Heng works on microeconomic theory with a focus on mechanism design and dynamic game theory. He chose this path because of an interest sparked upon taking a course on microeconomic theory and wanted to learn more. He quickly found that this path fit his strengths more than other subgroups.

Heng is currently working on a problem that relates to mechanism design, "which is roughly about the question of how to design a situation or how to design the situation between an employer and a worker so that there is a good relationship between them. The employer can let the worker work happily in a way that will also benefit the employer. How to design this relationship maybe through the wage contract, even long-term relationship, etc. I am working with my former student colleagues: Doruk Cetemen (University of Rochester), Bingchao Huangfu (University of Rochester) and Gagan Ghosh (California State University, Fullerton). We have completed three projects. For some preliminary work on mechanism design, I am talking with Tilman Börgers and Jihong Lee (MITRE visitor last year, now at Seoul National University).”

For the time being, Heng’s “focus is on dynamic games and mechanism design. In the future I would like to continue to study incentive problems in economic environments with various intertemporal tradeoffs. There are many relevant features in dynamic economic problems today, such as learning and information spillover. However, existing theory work on bargaining and auctions does not put much emphasis on them. I am working on incorporating these features into the model and analyzing their impact on the predictions.” He is currently working with those within Economics, but hopes to collaborate with other departments in the future.

He is teaching two courses this year, each for the duration of half a semester. “Both of the courses are Ph.D. courses. I have found them very interesting and a lot of fun to prepare for. Reading the papers, preparing lectures and talking to students is very interesting. For students, two things are vital: the passion for doing good research and teaching, and commitment to putting in effort. Luckily, my students have these traits.”

To find out more about Heng’s research, visit his homepage!