April 1 Kudroff Lecture focuses on the challenge of optimization

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — William J. Cook, John A. Swanson chair and professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, will present the 2013 Martin J. Kudroff Memorial Lecture at 4:30 p.m. on April 1, in 102 Leonhard Building on the University Park campus of Penn State.

The free public lecture is titled "The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Blueprint for Optimization."

Given a list of cities along with the cost of travel between each pair of them, the traveling salesman problem is to find the cheapest way to visit them all and return to your starting point. This problem is easy to state, but difficult to solve and is one of the most intensely studied puzzles in applied mathematics. In fact, it has defied solution to this day and the Clay Mathematics Institute is currently offering a $1 million prize to anyone that can solve the problem, or prove that it can't be done.

The traveling salesman problem can be traced to a variety of disciplines from neuroscience and psychology to art and astronomy. Cook will explore the history, application and computation of this problem, laying out a blueprint for future work in optimization and the practical solution of large-scale, possibly intractable, decision models.

Cook received his doctorate in combinatorics and optimization from the University of Waterloo in 1983. He spent two years as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the University of Bonn, and he has held positions at Cornell, Columbia, Bellcore, Rice, Georgia Tech and Princeton. Cook was elected a Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) fellow in 2009, an Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) fellow in 2010, an American Mathematical Society fellow in 2012 and a National Academy of Engineering member in 2011.

Together with David Applegate, Robert Bixby and Vasek Chvatal, he was awarded the 2007 Lanchester Prize by INFORMS for the book "The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Computational Study." Cook has delivered numerous invited and plenary lectures, including an invited lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1998, the I.E. Block Community Lecture at the SIAM annual meeting in 2003, and the SIAM Invited Lecture at the Joint Mathematics meetings in 2011. He is a former editor-in-chief of Mathematical Programming (Series A and Series B), and he is the current editor-in-chief of the new journal Mathematical Programming Computation.

The Marvin J. Kudroff Memorial Lecture was established at Penn State in 1981 to provide an annual lecture to engineering faculty and students by leaders in the field of engineering. The Kudroff Lecture is alternately hosted by the Department of Architectural Engineering and Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

Last Updated March 25, 2013