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Long-Term Visitor Luke Olson Explores the Mathematics of Information

The IMA's timely thematic year on the Mathematics of Information is in full swing. Researchers from mathematical and computer sciences, engineering, and other fields have been collaborating since September to address the core issues facing extraction of useful information from massive data sets.

Luke Olson is a long-term visitor currently in residence at the IMA. His recent work is focused on large, intractable information problems, where it is difficult computationally to (deeply) process all of the data. For example, large graphs and high dimensional data arising from networks or imaging.

According to Olson, these problems require a smaller and coarser view and his research aims to explore how to do it mathematically and how to do it computationally.  

"There is no limit to the size and complexity of these problems, so efficient and mathematically sound solutions are a critical aspect in making sense of the data," he explained.

The IMA's Thematic Year on the Mathematics of Information was a natural fit for Olson's current research.

"With the growth in data complexity and mathematical rigor of the information sciences, there is an increased demand on the underlying numerical analysis, high-performance computing solutions, and computational methods," Olson said. 

As these are the main areas of Olson's research, the thematic program on the Mathematics of Information was attractive because of the range of topics in this area, for example, applications, methods, analysis, and computation.  

"Large graphs, high-dimensional phenomena, and stochastic behavior all persist in many of the applications and emerge in the analysis, so I'm hoping to push my research on solvers to these areas and also to absorb some of the techniques in these areas in my own work," Olson explained.

Moreover, Olson noted that for him, one of the most valuable parts of an intensive theme is that one has the opportunity to learn the language of that area more fluently.

"This has been true during my visit to the IMA. I have had the opportunity to work with several visitors through the workshops where we otherwise would not have crossed paths," he said.

In terms of collaborating at the IMA, Olson said that the flux of visitors through the workshops has been great.

"The continuous interaction with long-term visitors and postdocs, both from this thematic year and from the last thematic year on modeling, computation, and analysis,has been highly beneficial," he noted.  

Olson is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his Ph.D. degree in applied mathematics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

More information about this year's workshops and the IMA Thematic Year are available online at www.ima.umn.edu/2011-2012.

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