Drusvyatskiy, ORIE Ph.D. ’13, is a Mathematical Optimization Society Prize Runner-Up for his Dissertation

The A. W. Tucker Prize is awarded for an outstanding doctoral thesis

Dimitriy Drusvyatskiy, ORIE Ph.D. ’13, was designated as one of three finalists for the 2015 Tucker Prize, awarded for an outstanding doctoral thesis.   His dissertation, “Slope and Geometry in Variational Mathematics”, was supervised by ORIE Professor Adrian Lewis.   

The dissertation develops fundamental concepts in mathematical optimization that do not rely on the traditional characterization of optimization problems in terms of whether they are linear, polynomial,  smooth, sparse or other such properties that relate to how the problem is represented algebraically.   Instead, Drusvyatskiy explores properties that are intrinsically geometric in character, in particular the fastest instantaneous rate at which a mathematical function decreases, its slope.  His insights are particularly relevant when the relationships involved in a problem are not ‘smooth’, i.e., small changes in input can result in abrupt changes in output.                 

In citing the basis for selecting Drusvyatskiy as a finalist, the Tucker Prize Committee noted that the dissertation “gives the mildest of conditions for many striking results in [so-called] tame optimization.”  The citation concluded, “In summary, built on rich imagination and creativity, this dissertation makes an inspiring set of fundamental and far reaching conclusions in the area of nonsmooth optimization.” 

In 2014, Drusvyatskiy joined the faculty of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Washington as an assistant professor, having spent the previous year as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization at the University of Waterloo, in Canada.  In his dissertation, he noted that his advisor, Lewis, “”has been an academic mentor, a colleague, and often a life coach.  His deep mathematical knowledge, creativity, and elegance in scientific presentation have been inspirational,” wrote Drusvyatskiy.

“Over the past two years, I have transitioned from a student to an academic,” Drusvyatskiy said in a recent communication.  “The excellent education and encouragement I have received at ORIE have made this journey seamless.”

The A. W. Tucker prize is named in honor of the late Princeton University Professor Albert W. Tucker, a seminal figure in Operations Research and particularly in Mathematical Programming (the Kuhn-Tucker conditions in nonlinear programming are named after him and his Princeton colleague Harold W. Kuhn).  The Mathematical Optimization Society, founded in 1973 as the Mathematical Programming Society, is an international organization dedicated to the promotion and the maintenance of high professional standards in the subject of mathematical optimization.  The A. W. Tucker prize has been awarded at three-year intervals since 1988; ORIE Professor David P. Williamson won the prize in 1994. 

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