Humboldt Research Award for Bill Cook

The US-Canadian scientist collaborates with the Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics

Intensifying their collaboration: - Humboldt Research Award winner Bill Cook (left) and Bernhard Korte at the Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics at the University of Bonn. © Photo: Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn

Bonn, 06.09.2022. Bill Cook from the University of Waterloo (Canada) has received a research award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He will now work with Bernhard Korte, Director of the Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics, to intensify their collaboration. The prize is endowed with 60,000 euros.

Bill Cook is considered a world-leading expert on the traveling salesman problem. How can a round trip through different cities be organized along the shortest route? Mathematicians have been racking their brains over this optimization problem for many decades. Cook is also the world's leading expert in the algorithmic solution of this problem. For example, he solved a 3,038-city problem optimally in 1992. This work was selected by Discover Magazine as one of the 50 best scientific achievements. Recently, together with Keld Helsgaun of Denmark, he calculated a tour of the three-dimensional position of 2,079,461 stars. He was able to prove that his solution can only deviate from the shortest possible solution by a factor of at most 0.0000074. To imagine this, consider a trip from Bonn to Berlin, which must not be more than one car length longer than the shortest possible route. This work was highlighted as a special achievement in New Scientist magazine in 2020.

Research on the traveling salesman problem
Bill Cook conducts research and teaches at the University of Waterloo (Canada). With a research award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, he will now come to the University of Bonn several times. "I will primarily be working with Professor Korte and other members of the Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics," says Prof. Cook. "But I also look forward to participating in other activities at HCM." The scientist hopes to advance discrete optimization solutions at the University of Bonn, including the traveling salesman problem and its applications.

Optimization of computer chips
Bernhard Korte, Director of the Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics, has been conducting research at the highest international level in the optimization of highly complex computer chips for decades. To date, more than 3,000 chips have been designed worldwide using the BonnTools developed by the scientists, including the chip that defeated Kasparov in chess. Bill Cook is no stranger to Bonn. From 2006 to 2017, he was a member of the scientific advisory board of the Hausdorff Institute for Mathematics (HIM). "It was a great experience," Cook says. He also participated in HIM's Combinatorial Optimization trimester program. "HIM is an ideal setting for trimester programs," he says. "It gets researchers out of their offices and gets everyone talking."

Again and again Bonn
William J. Cook was born in New Jersey, USA, in 1957. After studying mathematics, he completed a doctorate in combinatorics and optimization at the University of Waterloo (Canada). From 1983 to 1985, Cook joined the Institute of Econometrics and Operations Research at the University of Bonn as a Humboldt Fellow. In 1994 and 1995, he held a John von Neumann Professorship at the Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics in Bonn. As a visiting scholar and professor, the mathematician worked at Princeton University and Georgia Tech, among others. Since 2013, he has been a professor of combinatorics and optimization at the University of Waterloo (Canada). In 2011, Cook was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. He is a fellow of several scientific societies, including the American Mathematics Society. Cook has given numerous plenary lectures, including a talk at the "International Congress of Mathematicians" in 1998. His work on the "traveling salesman problem," was awarded the Beale-Orchard-Hays Prize of the Mathematical Optimization Society. He also received the Lanchester Prize from INFORMS.