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Burer Wins NSF Early Career Development (CAREER) Award

Sam Burer In the growing field of optimization research, mathematical formulas are used to make a system as efficient as possible, helping provide solutions to complex problems with an extremely large number of options.

Through a $400,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, University of Iowa researcher Sam Burer wants to communicate the relevance of optimization, computer science and information technology to businesses, students and the larger community.

The Early Career Development (CAREER) Award is one of the NSF's most prestigious awards for new faculty. Burer, an assistant professor of management sciences in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business, will use the funds for project support over the next five years. The CAREER award is given in recognition of research and teaching excellence, as well as academic leadership potential. The awards, presented to researchers nationwide, are designed to recognize and support the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

Optimization can help businesses solve complex problems in inventory, production and logistics, or help design the best facility layout. In biochemical fields, it can be used to identify protein structures, and in computing, optimization can help design circuits and more efficient computer networks. Companies such as Proctor and Gamble and FedEx are using optimization methods to design product distribution networks, while Major League Baseball uses optimization to set up its schedules, Burer said.

In addition to solving difficult optimization problems, the project will provide publicly available software to academics and practitioners in the field. The grant will fund several educational activities and class visits in the K-12 school system. The goal is to strengthen K-12 programs in computer science and information technology, especially among underrepresented groups.

"The project has the potential for a strong impact in the field of optimization, and will have a positive influence on the next generation of scientists," Burer said. "We hope to illustrate the link between computer science and society by providing fun, interactive examples of optimization."

Burer also plans to develop new courses in optimization and related disciplines for undergraduate, graduate and professional students. The grant will also help establish local community, as well as international, educational and research partnerships.


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