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Wednesday 27 September 2023,

Join Professor Christos G. Cassandras, head of the Division of Systems Engineering at Boston University as he discusses discoveries in a new unifying optimization framework. This seminar is hosted by Assistant Professor Giulia Pedrielli.

Seminar: Seeking Global Optimality in Nonconvex Distributed Multi-Agent Problems
Friday, October 19, 2018
Brickyard Engineering (BYENG) 210, Tempe campus [map]

Download the flier for more information.


Professor Cassandras presents a unifying optimization framework which are most commonly encountered cooperative multi-agent system problems, including coverage control, consensus, formation control and persistent monitoring. A main challenge in this framework is ensuring the problems can be solved through distributed algorithms where each agent requires only local information from an appropriately defined neighborhood.

Another challenge arises from the most interesting problems involving nonconvex objective functions allowing common gradient-based distributed algorithms to be trapped in poorly performing local optima.

There are two approaches bringing researchers closer to global optimality. 

The first approach exploits the properties of submodular functions showing the objective function is monotone submodular, a family of functions for which a simple greedy algorithm. The second approach offers a systematic method for escaping a local optimum by exploiting the structure of the objective function and knowledge of an agent’s neighborhood rather than by randomly perturbing controllable variables away from it.

Cassandras presents a recent result showing that convergence can be attained through a distributed optimization algorithm that alternates between “boosting” and “normal” states. It includes examples showing how to improve solutions of some particularly difficult constrained nonconvex optimization problems.

About the Speaker

Christos G. Cassandras is Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Boston University. He is Head of the Division of Systems Engineering, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and co-founder of Boston University’s Center for Information and Systems Engineering. He is currently an Editor of Automatica and a Fellow of the IEEE and of IFAC.

His research specializes in discrete event and hybrid systems, cooperative control, stochastic optimization and computer simulation, with applications to computer and sensor networks, manufacturing systems and transportation systems. In addition to his academic activities, he has worked extensively with industrial organizations on various systems integration projects and the development of decision-support software.

In the past, he has designed automated manufacturing systems with ITP Boston. Cassandras has also served as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control and as Editor for Technical Notes and Correspondence. 

He is the recipient of several awards including the 2011 IEEE Control Systems Technology Award, the Distinguished Member Award of the IEEE Control Systems Society,  two prizes for the IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge competition, the 2014 Engineering Distinguished Scholar Award at Boston University and a 2012 Kern Fellowship.

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