Graduate Studies

The Optimization group at UW-Madison is a great place to do graduate studies in optimization. Our faculty have diverse interests and appointments in numerous departments on campus. By choosing Optimization as one of the themes in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the university recognizes the success of the field and its importance to interdisciplinary research. The group’s position in WID in the Discovery Building provides a nucleus for research activities with collaborators around campus. Many of our graduate students from departments around campus work, study and meet with their research teams in WID’s optimization space.

Over the years, UW-Madison’s optimization group has been distinguished by its contributions to the mathematical theory of optimization, its collaborations with other faculty at UW–Madison — and beyond — on interdisciplinary research projects, and its contributions to the modeling and computational aspects of optimization. UW–Madison provides a special environment — enhanced by WID — that encourages interdisciplinary research, which in turn motivates new core research in optimization.

Optimization courses

To embark on either a master’s degree or Ph.D. program in optimization, you must enroll in one of the departments with which the group is affiliated. Your Ph.D. advisor should be a regular or affiliate faculty member of the department that you are enrolled in. Graduate admissions requirements and procedures are different among departments.

Refer to the graduate admissions pages for each of these departments for specific information about that department’s rules:

Your Graduate Career in Optimization @ UW

Graduate studies in Optimization at UW–Madison offer:

• A well-rounded and diverse course curriculum in optimization

• Opportunities to take courses from great faculty at UW–Madison in areas related to optimization and its applications such as statistics, mathematical analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and signal and image processing

• Opportunities to do independent study courses, which typically involve meeting individually with professors on a regular basis to study a topic of mutual interest


Contact professors for Research Assistantship availability. Departments offer some Teaching Assistantship and grading support (differs according to department and budget). Availability depends on current research funding, and positions typically include tuition remission and a stipend. Limited opportunties for Tutorial Assistantships are also available in some departments.

Qualifying exams and reading

Optimization reading list (pdf)
Archive of previous examinations


UW–Madison’s optimization groups consists of core faculty in the WID Optimization theme, affiliated faculty at UW (many of whom are on the advisory board for the WID Optimization theme), and postdoctoral and graduate student researchers.


  • Alberto Del Pia

    Alberto Del Pia

    Assistant Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Optimization

  • Jordan Ellenberg

    Jordan Ellenberg

    Discovery Fellow, Professor, Mathematics, Optimization

  • Michael Ferris

    Michael Ferris

    Theme Leader, Professor, Computer Sciences, Industrial & Systems Engineering, Mathematics, Optimization

  • Laurent Lessard

    Laurent Lessard

    Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Optimization

  • Jeffrey Linderoth

    Jeffrey Linderoth

    Discovery Fellow, Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Optimization

    • 2010-present
  • James Luedtke

    James Luedtke

    Discovery Fellow, Associate Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Optimization

  • Robert Nowak

    Robert Nowak

    Discovery Fellow, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Optimization

  • Thomas Rutherford

    Thomas Rutherford

    Professor, Agricultural & Applied Economics, Optimization

  • Rebecca Willett

    Rebecca Willett

    Discovery Fellow, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Optimization

  • Steve Wright

    Stephen Wright

    Discovery Fellow, Professor, Computer Sciences, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Optimization