Department of Economics Hosts Inaugural Pong S. Lee Memorial Lecture

Headshot of David Autor, a Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

By Mike Nolan

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 5, 2023) — David Autor, a Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and leading scholar in the fields of labor economics, public economics, and political economics, will deliver the University at Albany’s inaugural Pong S. Lee Memorial Lecture on Friday.

The Pong S. Lee Memorial Lecture series was established by the Department of Economics at the College of Arts and Sciences to pay tribute to the memory and remarkable contributions of Professor Pong S. Lee.

Headshot of Pong S. Lee.
Pong Lee played a pivotal role in shaping the Department of Economics and establishing its PhD program.

During his tenure as the department chair in the 1970s, Lee played a pivotal role in shaping the department and establishing its PhD program. The new lecture series was made possible through the support of Seung Park, a UAlbany graduate who received his PhD degree in Economics in 1974 as a student of Lee. 

Friday’s lecture will be held in the Standish Living Room at the Massry Center of Business at 4:30 p.m. Registration is required; space is limited.

“Professor Pong Lee’s work as chair during the 1970s helped transform UAlbany’s Department of Economics into a national standout and set a tone of excellence and collegiality that is still alive today,” said UAlbany Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Kim. “He was also an outstanding teacher who taught micro-, macro- and development economics to students at UAlbany for nearly three decades. We are looking forward to honoring his legacy and spirit at the first Pong Lee Memorial Lecture.”

“We are thrilled to have David Autor visit our campus and deliver the first Pong S. Lee Memorial Lecture,” added Department of Economics Professor and Chair Laurence Kranich. “Professor Autor, a world-renowned labor economist who has made seminal contributions on a variety of topics, is a fitting inaugural lecturer to commemorate the contributions of Professor Lee in founding our department.”

Autor’s research delves into the implications of technological advancements and globalization on the labor market. Specifically, he focuses on exploring the impacts of new tech on job polarization, skill demands, earnings level and inequality.

During Friday’s lecture, titled “Expertise, Artificial Intelligence and the Work of the Future,” Autor will present a framework for interpreting the relationship between technological change and expertise.

“Much of the value of labor in industrialized economies derives from the scarcity of expertise,” Autor states in the lecture’s description. “Will AI increase the value of expertise by broadening its relevance and applicability? Or will it instead commodify expertise and undermine pay, even if jobs are not lost in net?”

Thanks to a generous gift from Park, the Pong S. Lee Memorial Fund is an endowment fund that is used to provide support for students' professional development. 

Following Park’s wishes, the Department of Economics is using the donation, in part, to invite distinguished speakers to campus for the purpose of informing the University community on a broad range of economic topics.