Case Studies in Optimization

The teaching event "Case Studies in Discrete Optimization" has been taking place since 2009 and has established itself, together with its partner event "Case Studies in Non-Linear Optimization", as a success story. Within the seminar, which takes place every summer term, students can realistically experience how complex mathematical procedures can be used to solve real everyday problems, working together with researchers and businesses and presenting their ideas and results to a general audience.

Information on the case studies in the summer semester 2024 can be found here: https://go.tum.de/386917.

Case studies: the idea

"Challenging mathematics with an applied profile" – this is how the Department of Mathematics at the Technical University of Munich characterizes its study courses. The truth of this claim is visible in the numerous projects which are offered in cooperation with partners from industry and business, as well as together with related TUM departments in the areas of engineering, economics and life sciences.

In order for our students to practically apply their math knowledge during their studies, we have created the seminars "Case Studies in Discrete Optimization" and "Case Studies in Non-Linear Optimization". Here the students can implement knowledge acquired in their lectures and seminars in real projects demanding a high level of personal responsibility, whilst also offering a large amount of freedom in the scope of the project tackled.

The first hurdle is to understand the practical challenge of the project and then to model and analyse the task in small teams. Subsequently, the students develop and implement suitable solutions for the problem. In order to offer realistic problems to be solved, the department works together with external partners. 

The origins

The first event "Discrete Optimization: Case studies using real life examples" took place in the summer semester 2009 and was such a success that the event was awarded the Felix Klein Teaching Prize of the Department of Mathematics. Since then, the regular events "Case Studies in Discrete Optimization" and "Case Studies in Non-Linear Optimization" have become central elements within the degree program Master Mathematics in Operations Research.

Case studies: the procedure

The students start their project work in small teams of 3 to 5 persons. They get to know their project partners, plan together their aims for the project and their concrete path of action, work out a time plan and delegate the responsibilities within the team. Regular meetings with the supervisors guarantee that the expectations of both sides of the partnership regarding the aims of the project are clear and compatible, and that the targets are realistic.

Whilst the participants are working on the problems posed by their project, they prepare a visual depiction in poster form. This is presented to the public within a poster event – for example to A-level students who are visiting the TUM as part of one of our numerous school-to-university programs.

The supervisors professionally support the work of the students. The groups regularly report back on their progress and plan the next steps together. They discuss theoretical questions and are given technical support from the project partners. In soft skills sessions they practice presentation skills, as well as how to structure and prepare overheads and slide presentations.

In a midterm presentation, each team reports on the current status of their project and receives extensive feedback from the other participants and supervisors. The highlight and closing event of the case studies seminar is the one-day scientific workshop SCoNDO which the supervisors of the case study modules prepare and present together. 

SCoNDO – the closing workshop

The Students' Conference on Nonlinear and Discrete Optimization (SCoNDO) takes place once a year in summer. Here, the participants of the two courses "Case Studies in Discrete Optimization" and "Case Studies in Non-Linear Optimization" present their projects and present their results in a short public scientific talk.

In addition, they can discuss the specific challenges, the mathematical theory and the practical results in short question-and-answer sessions and during the coffee and lunch breaks. A joint "Conference Dinner" will conclude the event.

The conference is open to visitors. Everyone interested in mathematical optimization and its applications in real-world projects is cordially invited. So come and see for yourself and talk to our students. The next ScoNDO will probably take place in July 2024. More detailed information will be published here.

Our cooperation partners

Our past partners include Audi, BMW, car2go, Deutsche Bahn, DLR, Flixbus, Framos, HAWE Hydraulik, iABG, IAV, Logivations, risklab GmbH, Siemens, the World Food Programme and various research institutes from other departments at TUM.

Do you have an optimization project which is suitable for a student project with a duration of one semester? We would be happy to explain more about our cooperation possibilities. Please contact Dr. Florian Lindemann.

Practice and career for mathematics students

The Department of Mathematics offers you further opportunities to gain practical experience during your studies.

The TUM Data Innovation Lab (TUM-DI-LAB) is aimed at Master's students who want to research data-driven methods for interdisciplinary practical tasks. Every semester, the Lab offers new projects.

In order for our students to learn how to work in an application-oriented way during their bachelor studies, we offer them Case Studies of Mathematical Modelling.