Tamás Terlaky, chair of the department of industrial and systems engineering, was a featured speaker at the 12th Annual Simon Stevin Lecture on Optimization in Engineering, held in September in Leuven, Belgium. The lecture is part of a broader optimization conference, the 14th Belgian-French-German Conference on Optimization, that covers all aspects of optimization and its application.
Each year, an outstanding international scholar is invited to give the Stevin lecture as a way to report on latest progress in the development of optimization algorithms and their applications in engineering, and this year the honor went to Terlaky.
"Optimization is everywhere in the engineering sciences," says Terlaky. "Civil engineers strive to design the strongest possible structures from certain material, electrical engineers strive to design the fastest computer chips, mechanical and aerospace engineers strive to design optimal products and objects, such as engine blocks or airplane wings. Industrial and systems engineers optimize industrial processes, supply chains and financial products. Ultimately, optimization enhances competitiveness and efficiency. As an industrial engineer, it is a great honor to be invited to present in this high impact lecture series."
The invitation recognizes the significance of Terlaky’s research in optimization methodology, and his decades-long effort to facilitate the interaction between the engineering and optimization communities. It also coincides with the 10th anniversary of launching the journal Optimization and Engineering, for which Terlaky serves as founding editor-in-chief.
Terlaky gave a talk on "Linear Optimization and Extensions: Three decades of polynomial time algorithms." He discussed the impact of polynomial time algorithms on the theory and practice of optimization that former Rutgers University professor, Leonid Khachiyan, proposed in the late 70’s. The impact that Khachiyan made in the optimization community has now crossed over into several fields.
"Optimization, especially in engineering, is interdisciplinary by nature. The core methodology is mostly mathematical, the design and analysis of algorithms impacts various areas of mathematics, statistics and computer science," says Terlaky. "For example, medical researchers, physicians and optimization experts are collaborating to design optimal radiation therapy for cancer treatment – advancing methods of killing off cancer with as little harm to surrounding cells as possible."
"One may grow into the optimization field from many different backgrounds," says Terlaky about students interested in entering the field. "Students who are willing to explore this challenging but highly satisfying field should develop their mathematical, computer science and engineering skills. Finally, in order to work with the interdisciplinary teams, everyone must have good communication skills, to be able to get ideas across effectively."