Aharon Ben-Tal (left) and Tamás Terlaky.
The 2016 recipient of the INFORMS Optimization Society Khachiyan Prize, for his remarkable life-time achievements in the area of optimization, is Aharon Ben-Tal, Professor at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.
Professor Ben-Tal is an internationally recognized expert in the area of continuous optimization with an outstanding record of academic achievement. In this citation, we focus solely on Professor Ben-Tal's original, significant, and lasting scientific contributions, leaving aside his remarkable achievements in teaching, supervision, mentoring, and service to the profession.
Since the start of his scientific career in the mid-70's, Professor Ben-Tal has published three original monographs and over 130 journal papers (most of them in top-quality professional journals). This body of work has made extremely important contributions to a wide spectrum of areas in the theory and application of continuous optimization. His contributions, which have been cited almost 17,000 times, include fundamental results in the following topics.
- Convexity theory and duality, with applications to information theory and statistics.
- Optimality conditions, including pioneering and fundamental contributions to the theory of higher-order optimality conditions in nonsmooth optimization.
- Fundamental research on optimal decision-making under stochastic uncertainty.
- The development of novel efficient optimization techniques for extremely large-scale convex programs.
- Applications of optimization in engineering. Since the late 80s, Ben-Tal has not only made important contributions to structural optimization (truss topology design of mechanical structures, shape design, free material optimization), but also to medical imaging (reconstruction algorithms for positron-emission tomography), signal processing, water distribution systems, filter design, robotics, supply chain management, and more.
These contributions of Professor Ben-Tal form a truly outstanding research record in terms of their originality, breadth, depth and impact. However, it may be argued that the scholarly achievement with the greatest impact has been his path-breaking research on robust optimization (RO).
In the mid-90's, robust optimization was simultaneously and independently rediscovered by two groups of researchers: Aharon Ben-Tal and Arkadi Nemirovski on one hand, and Laurent El Ghaoui and co-authors on the other hand. Professor Ben-Tal's vision played a key role in a paper on robust optimization devoted to a particular case of a truss affected by uncertain load that became the first of a long series of publications that included part of a monograph. This work, together with the pioneering research of El Ghaoui and, eventually, the contributions of other researchers worldwide, resulted in the creation of a new area in optimization. This area has been significantly “shaped" by the contributions of Prof. Ben-Tal in terms of both the specific applications of robust optimization and the extension of its central paradigm to theoretical issues associated with tractability/tight tractable approximations of robust counterparts. Together with Arkadi Nemirovski and Laurent El Ghaoui, Professor Ben-Tal co-authored a seminal book on robust optimization that contains not only a review of known methodologies, but also some surprising and elegant new results.
Tamás Terlaky (chair), Philip Gill, Dorit Hochbaum, Werner Römisch