MSIA 440: Optimization and Heuristics

Quarter Offered

Fall ; Michael Watson


Optimization technology is an important part of analytics.  Optimization allows you to mathematically “narrow your choices the very best when there are virtually innumerable feasible options and comparing them is difficult.”

In practice, optimization technology allows firms to save millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars by helping make better decisions faster.  It is a general technology that has been applied in manufacturing, retail, services, transportation, finance and banking, marketing, telecoms, energy, military and a host of other industries. 

When managers and companies talk about optimization, they are usually referring to linear and integer programming.  Once you understand these, you will be able to understand other types of optimization technology as well.

This course will cover linear and integer programming.  Our focus will be on how this works in practice, how you apply it to industrial-sized problems, and how you get results.   We will cover what linear and integer programming is.  We will cover how to translate a real-world problem into a mathematical optimization problem.  We will cover how to write and organize industrial-strength optimization code.  We will cover how to present the results of an optimization to the decision makers—not a trivial task and important for the success of these projects. 

At the end of the course, you should have a better understanding of how optimization works, the types of problems it can solve, and how to present the results.  Throughout the course, we will use some well-known commercially available tools from IBM.  Companies will value the fact that you know these tools.