Parallel Profile - Virginia Torczon

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, The College of William & Mary; and Consultant, the Institute for Computer Applications in Science and Engineering (ICASE)

Virginia Torczon's research interests are in the areas of nonlinear programming, parallel and distributed computing, multidisciplinary design optimization, and computational science and engineering. She collaborates with CRPC Optimization Group Leader John Dennis and CRPC researchers Michael Lewis, ICASE, and Natalia Alexandrov, NASA Langley Research Center, on ways to make optimization practical and useful for engineering applications. She continues her research on extending both the theory and the software for nonlinear programming techniques. Her latest research interest focuses on managing approximation models for engineering optimization and design.

"Often in engineering optimization, approximation models replace full physical simulations because the approximations are relatively inexpensive to compute," she says. "We have developed procedures that manage the interplay between the optimization and the fidelity of the approximation model in a way that guarantees convergence to a solution of the original engineering optimization problem."

Torczon developed the original PDS (Parallel Direct Search) software, a collection of Fortran subroutines for solving unconstrained nonlinear optimization problems using direct search methods. The software can be run in either a serial or distributed computing environment as its performance scales well with increasing numbers of processors. Recently, Rice CRPC researcher David Serafini, working with Dennis and Torczon, successfully applied a revised version of PDS to a problem in helicopter rotor design as part of a broader collaboration with researchers at Boeing and IBM (see "Research Focus," page x).

Prior to her faculty position at The College of William & Mary, Torczon worked at Rice University as a research scientist in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics and as a research associate in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. She began her affiliation with the CRPC during her time at Rice. She has a B.A. in history from Wesleyan University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in mathematical sciences from Rice University.

Affiliated with many scientific organizations, committees, and publications throughout her career, Torczon was recently elected to the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Council (see "CRPC Honors and Awards," page x). She was recently appointed to a two-year term on the SIAM Committee on Committees and Appointments, and is a co-chair, with Mike Heath, of the eighth SIAM Conference on Parallel Processing for Scientific Computing to be held in Minneapolis this March. Torczon is a member of the Mathematical Programming Society and the Association for Computing Machinery, and was appointed to the CRPC Technical Steering Committee as a representative of the Optimization and Automatic Differentiation Group earlier this year.

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