Five minutes with Dr Ruth MisenerLecturer in Computational Optimisation

Dr. Ruth Misener

1.  Tell us about your research in a nutshell.

My research intertwines three strands: (i) novel optimisation algorithms and numerical techniques, (ii) fundamental process systems engineering, and (iii) software tools and protocols. My interdisciplinary background in chemical engineering and computer science informs and inspires this research programme.

Myself and my team research mixed-integer nonlinear optimisation, a type of mathematical optimisation which is highly relevant to a range of engineering applications. We develop research software and optimisation algorithms for energy efficiency engineering and biomedical systems engineering. An example of our contributions to chemical engineering is identifying key convexity properties of logarithmic mean temperature difference, the nonlinear function characterising heat exchange. Our approach allows us to prove global optimality, for the first time, of several heat exchanger networks in the literature. 

2.  What impact could your research have for our industry partners?

Mixed-integer nonlinear programming (MINLP) forms an important class of optimization problems. For example, MINLP is necessary for optimizing the energy use of large industrial plants, for integrating renewable sources into energy networks, for biological and biomedical design, and for countless other applications. 

 Myself and my team develop innovative approaches to MINLP challenges using the latest computer science techniques including: (i) approximation algorithms from theoretical computer science, (ii) Bayesian optimisation from machine learning, and (iii) satisfiability modulo theories from software verification. Our team, which includes computer scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, has gained significant attention from Imperial’s industrial partners because of our novel and promising approaches to grand challenges in engineering. 

3.  Who/what sectors would be interested in hearing more about your research? 

Chemical and Pharmaceutical partners: Chemical process optimisation and control;
Oil and Gas and Bioengineering;
Professional Services, Big Data: Numerical software.