IBM Selects UB Engineer for Faculty Award

Release Date: March 24, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Ismael Regis de Farias, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has received a prestigious 2005 IBM Faculty Award of $20,000.

The awards are intended to recognize outstanding faculty worldwide and to promote innovative, collaborative research in disciplines of mutual interest to IBM and the researcher.

A UB faculty member since 2003, de Farias conducts research in integer programming, a computational technique that is a central discipline in operations research and that has had major impacts on diverse fields ranging from manufacturing, finance, database management, computational biology and medicine.

Integer programming focuses on the solving of optimization problems, such as the famous traveling salesman problem, in which the objective is to find the best of all possible routes in a network.

"In my field, we find solutions to problems to minimize costs and maximize profits, as well as social welfare, and to determine how to implement such solutions," explained de Farias.

He noted that sectors as diverse as the airline industry and major league baseball that rely on optimization of schedules rely on integer programming.

His research focuses on a subfield called branch-and-cut, an intelligent approach to enumerate solutions to a problem. Through his research in this subfield, he has established ways to solve much larger instances of integer programming problems than state-of-the-art methods.

Having applied his work to the steel and paper industries in the past, he now is collaborating with colleagues in UB's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering to apply aspects of integer programming to bioinformatics.

de Farias has developed new groundbreaking results in polyhedral combinatorics, which deals with the geometry of integer programming problems. These results have been documented in several papers published in the main journals of operations research, such as Mathematical Programming, Operations Research, and Mathematics of Operations Research.

Some of his research was incorporated recently into commercial optimization software such as CPLEX and he recently was awarded a best paper award by INFORMS, the main academic and industrial society of operations research.

de Farias will use part of the IBM grant to implement his ideas in the COIN-OR open source, an operations research open-source initiative.

Launched by IBM Research and currently based at INFORMS, COIN-OR makes computational optimization software freely available to the research community and to industry, in the spirit of the Linux and other open source initiatives.

This semester, de Farias is teaching a pilot course on computational optimization with COIN-OR, which will become part of the required undergraduate and graduate curricula in the UB Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, starting in the 2006-2007 academic year.

He will also perform joint research projects with researchers in IBM's Mathematical Sciences Division.

de Farias, a resident of Amherst, earned his doctorate from the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

IBM Faculty Awards are given to approximately a dozen academic researchers around the world annually. They are designed to foster collaboration between researchers at leading universities worldwide and those in IBM research, development and services organizations; and to promote courseware and curriculum development to stimulate growth in disciplines and geographies that are strategic to IBM and the world.

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