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Faculty of Science


Ryerson Mathematics Team Invited to Prestigious International Conference in Israel

By Connie Jeske Crane


Yuval Yakubov
Dr. Konstantinos Georgiou (left) and student Yuval Yakubov (right)

What better way to appreciate where math can take you, than by watching mathematics students in action. From business and economics, to cutting-edge fields like artificial intelligence, the real-world capabilities honed in Ryerson’s applied mathematics program are propelling our students – and undergraduates at that – into compelling research scenarios.

As an example, one team from Ryerson’s Department of Mathematics – consisting of Yuval Yakubov (BSc ’18), who will pursue his master’s degree at York University in the fall; Jay Griffiths (BSC ’17), and Prof. Konstantinos Georgiou – recently achieved a significant honour. The team was invited to present their theoretical computer science research, summarized in the paper, "Symmetric Rendezvous with Advice: How to Rendezvous in a Disk,” at the 25th International Colloquium on Structural Information and Communication Complexity (SIROCCO).

This is no small feat, says Georgiou of SIROCCO, which is being held this year in Israel from June 18 to 21: “Let me emphasize that, unlike other fields of mathematics, theoretical computer science is a fast growing area and conference publications are highly competitive, counting equally as important as journal publications.”  

Besides the recognition however, Georgiou says the two Ryerson students also got another unique opportunity, namely, the rare chance to dive in and conduct research as undergrads. “For the duration of the research programs (three months in the summer), we were meeting very regularly (at least two to three times weekly) in my office for several hours, discussing existing results in the literature, and making progress in our own problem… For the duration of their scholarships, the two students were considered research assistants, and they were paid to work full-time on the research project.” And as Georgiou adds, “After all this is the only way one can come up with a publishable result.”

And what of the research itself? Rather than lab work and experiments, Georgiou explains that math research involves formal arguments and calculations, scrawled across paper or white boards. “It’s countless hours of discussing ideas and building intuition around our problem.”

As for the particulars of the research, Georgiou says work started “with the assumption that two blind robots are at known distance from each other but they do not see each other.” And next, those two robots – perhaps deployed in a disaster zone or another remote location – must rendezvous. Although they have an established meeting point kilometres away, they’re actually not necessarily far away from each other. How to avoid a long journey and calculate a more efficient rendezvous point? This roughly sums up the problem tackled by the mathematics team.

As Georgiou further explains, “How well one can solve a problem with limited resources and/or with partial information? In our case, robots are blind, and do not know each other's location. Still one can design sophisticated techniques that provide a solution (rendezvous) that is realized in time comparable to the time you would need if you knew the correct locations in advance… Our problem lies in the intersection of computational geometry and operations research (areas of math and theoretical computer science).”

Ultimately, as the team concluded in its paper, their research contribution includes demonstrating “…how to adjust known, even simple and provably non-optimal, algorithms for a well studied problem in Operations Research known as the Symmetric Rendezvous problem on a Line, effectively improving their performance in the presence of a reference point.”

Later in June (with Yakubov and Griffiths unavailable due to other commitments), Georgiou will present at SIROCCO on behalf of his research team – and Ryerson.

This research was made possible through support from three  sources: the NSERC Discovery Grant supported Prof. Georgiou, the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) supported Griffiths, and Yakubov received Faculty of Science, Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO) funding.