The WID group brings together a rare combination of researchers with a variety of optimization specialties who will study and develop new methods, as well as apply these methods, to a wide range of important real-world problems. The team’s dual emphasis on research and applications makes it unique. Optimization experts tend to specialize in tackling problems that involve either discrete variables, which are essentially yes or no decisions, or continuous variables, where design parameters fall along a continuum of values. Such optimization teams at other institutions tend to have expertise in one class of problems or the other. The WID team has experts in both. To tackle real-world issues, the researchers will translate problems into mathematical equations that can be solved and analyzed, and develop the optimization methods for solving these problems. The team will work closely with other researchers to expand the use of optimization methods to their WID sponsored projects, such as systems biology, epigenetics or medical devices. “UW-Madison has a long tradition of being a world-leading institution in mathematical optimization, and the institute will allow us to continue this tradition,” Linderoth says. The group also will study complex problems beyond WID. Examples of ongoing projects include optimization and machine Learning for functional brain imaging, strategic optimization for improved water quality and enhancement of natural resources, algorithms for data analysis (and application to large scale agricultural problems), and designs for more reliable electric grids. “The optimization group embodies the collaborative mission of WID,” Ferris says. “Our tools and techniques will provide a direct benefit to our collaborators, allowing them to more efficiently analyze and effectively model their data, whether the subject and variables are drawn from ecology, medicine, statistics, agriculture, engineering or genetics.” While summary information about major projects can be found at our WID website page, this site contains more detailed information about current projects and interests of the theme members.