2018-2019 Baylor Undergraduate Lecture Series in Mathematics


Dr. William Cook was the speaker in the eleventh annual Baylor Undergraduate Lecture Series in Mathematics when he visited Baylor University from November 14-17, 2018.

William Cook

Professor Cook is one of the world's foremost authorities on the Traveling Salesman Problem. This famous problem will be the subject of his public lecture on November 15; see the abstract for this talk below. (4 pm in MMSci 101).

Professor Cook did his undergraduate studies at Rutgers University graduating in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. After earning a master's degree in operations research from Stanford University in 1980, he moved to the University of Waterloo, where he earned a Ph.D. in combinatorics and optimization in 1983. After postdoctoral studies at the University of Bonn, he joined the Cornell University faculty in 1985, moved to Columbia University in 1987, and in 1988 joined the research staff of Bell Communications Research. In 1994 he returned to academia as John von Neumann Professor at the University of Bonn, and in 1996 he moved to Rice University as Noah Harding Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics. In 2002 he became the Chandler Family Chair in Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech. In January 2013, he moved to the University of Pittsburgh as the John Swanson Professor of Industrial Engineering, before returning to the University of Waterloo in June 2013 as a professor in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, and subsequently University Professor. In 2018 he moved to Johns Hopkins University as Professor of Applied Mathematics and Statistics.

Dr. Cook was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2011. He became a fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics in 2009 and of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) in 2010. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society. He won the Beale-Orchard-Hays Prize from the Mathematical Programming Society in 2000, and his book The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Computational Study won the Frederick W. Lanchester Prize from INFORMS in 2007.

He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Mathematical Programming Computation (since 2008), and the former Editor-in-Chief of Mathematical Programming (Series B from 1993 to 2003, and Series A from 2003 to 2007).

For a poster advertising Professor Cook's lectures, click here.

Dr. Cook's lectures and abstracts, with dates and venues, are:

Thursday November 15, 2018 at 4:00 pm - MMSci 101

PUBLIC LECTURE: In Pursuit of the Traveling Saleman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation

Abstract: The traveling salesman problem is easy to state: given a number of cities along with the cost of travel between each pair of them, find the cheapest way to visit them all and return to your starting point. Easy to state, but difficult to solve. It is a real possibility that there may never exist an efficient method that is guaranteed to solve every instance of the problem. This is a deep mathematical question: Is there an efficient solution method or not? The topic goes to the core of complexity theory concerning what computers can and cannot solve. For the stout-hearted who would like to tackle the problem, the Clay Mathematics Institute will hand over a $1,000,000 prize to anyone who can either produce an efficient method or prove it cannot be done. In this talk we discuss the history, applications, and computation of this fascinating problem.

Friday, November 16, 2018 at 4:00 pm - MMSci 301


Abstract: The past several decades have seen an intense study of computational tools for attacking NP-hard models in discrete optimization. We give an overview of this work, discussing current techniques, results, and research directions. The talk will highlight successful approaches adopted in the exact solution to large-scale mixed-integer programming models and the traveling salesman problem.


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