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The crossover of optimization

Dr. Margaret Wright sheds light on optimization during INFORMS talk

"In many important real-world problems, you can’t do experiments and you need to be able to visualize different options and their effects,” says Dr. Margaret Wright, Silver Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University. “Every area of science, engineering, business, and health has complicated problems to solve. Modeling them mathematically and solving them computationally may lead to an improved answer."

During Dr. Wright's April 9 talk entitled "Optimization Without Derivatives: Consensus and Controversies," she presented a broad view of the area of derivative-free optimization, where critical applications lead to numerous open questions, both mathematical and computational.

"These intertwined issues illustrate how research in optimization can be a fascinating and rewarding blend of theory and practice," she says.

Before coming to NYU, Dr. Wright was a researcher at Bell Laboratories (part of AT&T until 1995, then of Lucent Technologies), where her work combined research on theoretical and computational optimization with experience on real-world applications.

"One of my favorite projects involved trying to find an optimal design for an indoor wireless system," said Dr. Wright. "Each team member contributed his or her expertise, and we all learned from each other."

Dr. Wright's current research includes computational optimization methods with and without derivatives. She remains very interested in practical applications of optimization, for example devising optimal chemotherapy regimens for cancer patients.

"Optimization methods can help to suggest improvements to standard treatment plans," commented Dr. Wright, noting that there are many promising areas in medicine where optimization has proved to be useful.

Story by Amanda Fabrizio

Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2010

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