Krishnamurthy Iyer researches dynamic markets, applying game theory to determine how these complex systems might behave under various conditions. For example, he examines online auctions, such as advertisers bidding for ad slots on Google or Yahoo, to see how the interactions shift or change depending on, say, the number of participants, or how participants plan on behaving in the future. “The main thing that interests me is how different market mechanisms can influence the whole market overall,” says Iyer.
A love of numbers led him to this line of inquiry. “I was mainly interested in mathematics as a child,” says Iyer. He credits this to his parents, who played a “huge role” in sparking his passion for math. This foundation led him to become a mechanical engineering major at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India. There, he dove into stochastics, probability, and game theory, which further inspired him to pursue a Ph.D. at Stanford University, where his adviser, Ramesh Johari helped Iyer continue developing his research niche. “He was very instrumental in molding my interests,” says Iyer.
Under Johari’s guidance, Iyer tackled the theoretical behaviors of advertisers involved in search engine auctions who are unsure of the exact value of a mouse click. Iyer simplified the analysis by creating an approximation methodology called mean field equilibrium. Using this model, Iyer found that individual advertisers optimized their behavior only based on the long run estimated behavior of other participants. Iyer was able to prove that the equilibrium exists, and is a fairly accurate representation of how someone behaves as the number of participants increase in situations like online auctions. Iyer expanded his research when he did his post-doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania, where he explored the impacts of attaching a value to the privacy of a market participant.
Now, at Cornell, Iyer plans to continue tackling more questions about online markets. “Nowadays, anyone can start a market online, you just need to write some code,” says Iyer. “The question is, what’s the catch? These questions will come up more as organizing a market online becomes simpler.” He’ll also be looking at how certain constraints on the market users, such as budgetary limits, can influence the various players in these systems. While his work remains firmly planted in the theoretical, Iyer hopes to one day see how his models compare and apply to real world systems.
Iyer chose Cornell because of its well-respected Operations Research school. “I was wanted to work with talented people—everyone here is very bright.” He was also drawn by Cornell’s up and coming NYC tech campus. “That made me very interested.”