Since this is my first blog post I thought it would be best to start with a brief introduction about my research and how I ended up visiting Carnegie Mellon University.
I am a PhD student from Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU) in Turku (Finland), and this is basically the third year of my PhD studies. I did my undergraduate studies at ÅAU with focus on the field Process Systems Engineering (PSE), which is a subfield of Chemical Engineering. In PSE we study processes and production facilities as whole units, and we are mostly concerned about the dependencies and integration of different production units in the process to achieve the best possible performance of the whole process. Process synthesis for example, is a well-studied subject in PSE where the goal is to find the optimal design and optimal choice of process units and machines in a production facility. Scheduling and production planning are other examples of tasks studied in PSE.
My research has been focusing on mathematical optimization, which is a tool often used to solve tasks within PSE. The goal of optimization is to find the best possible, or a good enough, solution to a given problem, for example the most efficient production schedule. In production planning for example, there are multiple options regarding which products to produce, when to produce specific products and which quantities to produce. The number of possible choices grows rapidly, and therefore it is not possible to test out all possible choices. In optimization, we use different mathematical techniques that enables us to find the optimal solution out of billions of possible solutions.
Optimization problems in chemical engineering often contains some sort of decisions making as well as nonlinear relations, such optimization problems belong to a class referred to as mixed integer nonlinear programming (MINLP). These are a challenging type of optimization problems and in my research, I have been investigating new techniques for finding the best possible solution to such problems. Prof. Ignacio Grossmann at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has been one of the frontiers in MINLP optimization, and he presented one of the first methods for solving these optimization problems. Prof. Grossmann has received several prestigious awards and he has an impressive h-index of 105. CMU also have several other world renown researchers and professors within the field optimization and the research group within PSE is considered to be world leading.
Due to their strength within my field of research, CMU was my first choice when considering a research visit. At this point, I want to mention that I am truly grateful for the invitation by prof. Grossmann and for the financial support that made this visit possible. Visiting CMU is a real privilege for me.
I am staying at CMU for six months, and my goal is to continue my research in collaboration with some other PhD students at CMU and attend some relevant courses. The research group in PSE is really great at CMU. The group is led by 5 professors and there are about 50 graduate students and 15 postdocs and visitors. The atmosphere is inspiring and there are several PhD students with research topics closely related to my own research.
My first impression of Pittsburgh is that the weather is strange compared to Turku. It varies a lot, on Monday it can be snowing and -5 and on Wednesday it can be +15 and sunny. Otherwise Pittsburgh is a nice city with a lot to see and explore. The neighborhood surrounding the university campus is quiet and located a couple of kilometers from the city center. I was lucky with my apartment here in Pittsburgh, it is located next to the campus and it only takes about 10 min to walk to the office.
I will get back to you soon with another post 🙂