New directions in computational optimization

Thursday, February 25, 2021

“I started as a student in mathematics,” said Professor Yuying Li. “It was a huge, scary move to come to Waterloo for computer science. Thankfully, it has worked out.”

photo of Professor Yuying LiAfter completing an undergraduate degree in mathematics in her native China, Professor Li moved to Waterloo in 1983 to study artificial intelligence. In the course of her master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science, she changed course when she found herself increasingly drawn to optimization. 

Now, as a faculty member, Professor Li leverages computational optimization to solve complex, real-world problems. In an ironic twist of fate, her focus on optimization has brought her full circle as she relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning applications in her everyday work. 

Recently, Li has teamed up with Professor Peter Forsyth, a colleague in the Cheriton School of Computer Science, to develop optimal strategies for allocating retirement savings through leveraging machine learning applications. “Essentially, we mine historical market data and use a machine learning approach to model the problem,” Professor Li explained. “Then we use computation to discover optimal allocation decisions.”

Though she first wanted to be a mathematician, Professor Li’s fascination with the synergy between mathematics and computer science has catalyzed solutions to pressing real-world problems. “For me, career satisfaction comes from connecting my research to the outside world,” she shared. “Fortunately, Waterloo is the right place to be.”

Learn more about Professor Yuying Li’s story.

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