IIE Annual Conference & Expo 2015
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Q&A with William Cook

William Cook, Ph.D., is a professor in combinatorics and optimization at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and the former Chandler Family Chair in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Cook will be giving his keynote presentation at the IIE Annual Conference Sunday, June 1. 

What is the most exciting development or, conversely, the most pressing challenge in the field of industrial and systems engineering today?

How to best utilize the ever-increasing amounts of available data! We are currently living through a land rush of sorts, where not-always-well-thought-out methods are being deployed in the race to be first in various domains of potential application in the data arena. The aftermath will create fantastic opportunities for IE/OR techniques to squeeze value out of the vast and rich data sets that are being constructed.

What do you plan to discuss in your keynote presentation?

Given a list of cities along with the cost of travel between each pair of them, the traveling salesman problem, or TSP for short, is to find the cheapest way to visit them all and return to your starting point. Easy to state, but difficult to solve. In this talk, we will discuss the problem’s history, applications and computation, laying out a blueprint for the practical solution of large-scale, possibly intractable, decision models.

What would you like attendees to take away from your presentation?

So how should we address the engineering challenges ahead? One answer lies in the take-no-prisoners approach adopted in computational studies of the TSP. Theoretical considerations suggest that for many IE decision models, once we reach a certain size there are problem instances that necessarily take an impossibly large amount of computation: Increasingly fast computing machines can never overcome an exponential rate of growth in the running time of a solution method. But this does not imply that whenever we are faced with a specific large example we must give up and resort to a rough guess!

For more information about William Cook and the other IIE Annual Conference keynote speakers, go to the Keynote Speakers page at www.iienet.org/annual.