Mathematical Optimization and Machine Learning: Prof. Sebastian Sager becomes Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute Magdeburg
Tackling complex engineering challenges through mathematical research
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. habil. Sebastian Sager, 48, mathematician and professor at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, has been appointed Max Planck Fellow and will head the Mathematical Optimization and Machine Learning research group at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems in Magdeburg for five years, starting October 1, 2023. The current collaboration between Sebastian Sager and the Max Planck Institute will thus be even more intensified.
The focus of his work group is the application-driven development of methods for modeling, simulation and optimization, for example, for sustainable chemical production. "Here, both are intended to stimulate each other: mathematical research is driven by complex engineering issues, for example, in the context of circular economy. At the same time, mathematical results in the form of more efficient and robust algorithms often lead to breakthroughs in the engineering sciences," says Sebastian Sager, outlining the goals and main research topics he wants to pursue with the Max Planck Fellow group in cooperation with the research groups at the MPI. "With new algorithms, calculations can be performed faster without losing accuracy and reliability. In this way, completely new types of technical processes can be tested for their potential."
Sebastian Sager's focus is on mixed-integer nonlinear optimization. Methods of optimization and combinatorics are very versatile: in modeling, in training mathematical models with real data, in designing experiments to keep the measurement effort low while keeping the information content high, and in designing and controlling complex processes. Machine learning methods will also be used in other important contexts, such as deriving dynamic equations or detecting previously unknown optimality principles in data. This may apply, for example, to bacterial cultures that interact with each other in an optimal manner. In order to investigate how these biological processes work and how they can be imitated, the mathematicians want to explain the data basis for this as well as possible and get as close as possible to biological reality with the mathematical model.
"The mathematical pillar of the MPI will be further strengthened and already existing collaborations of Prof. Sager with numerous groups of our institute will be intensified, for example in chemical process engineering. But also a future cooperation with groups doing research on issues of bioprocess technology or electrochemical energy conversion is well conceivable due to the high relevance of mathematical optimization," say Prof. Sundmacher and Prof. Sager.
About Prof. Dr. rer. nat. habil. Sebastian Sager
Sebastian Sager was born in Westerstede in 1975 and obtained his Abitur in 1994 at the Gymnasium Westerstede. After studying mathematics and obtaining his doctorate and habilitation at the University of Heidelberg, Sebastian Sager was appointed professor at the Faculty of Mathematics at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg (OVGU) in 2012. There he heads the Mathematical Algorithmical Optimization group. Since 2012, he has been a Principal Investigator in the International Max Planck Research School for Advanced Methods in Process and Systems Engineering Magdeburg, and since 2014, he has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Research Center Dynamic Systems (CDS): Systems Engineering at OVGU. He is also a member of the steering committee of the SmartProSys research initiative. In 2015, Sebastian Sager was awarded the Otto von Guericke Research Prize. From 2015 to 2020, he was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant for "Mathematical Optimization for Clinical Decision Support and Training". Since 2017, with a term until 2026, Sebastian Sager is the speaker of the DFG Research Training Group 2297 "Mathematical Complexity Reduction". In 2021, he was offered a W3 professorship "Mathematics of Machine Learning" at the University of Würzburg (not accepted).
Sebastian Sager is married, has two daughters and feels very rooted in Magdeburg.
The Max Planck Fellow Program
The Max Planck Fellow Program promotes the collaboration of outstanding university teachers with scientists of the Max Planck Society. The appointment of active university teachers as Max Planck Fellows is initially limited to five years and at the same time linked to the leadership of a research group at a Max Planck Institute.