My academic journey started at a very applied corner (undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering). But I found the more mathematical ideas quite interesting. I was especially fascinated by the series of classes I took in optimization and Operations Research, which offered a great mixture of theory and applications. As a graduate student in Operations Research, I continued in the dual path of theory and applications. On the applied side, I used tools from discrete geometry and algebraic topology to model protein structure. In parallel, I investigated more fundamental questions related to what makes some discrete optimization problems hard to solve.
My current research interests are indeed a good mixture of both theory and applications. I investigate certain fundamental questions from algebraic topology and geometric analysis using methods that are often “discrete” in nature. In the same flavor, I study theoretical problems from discrete optimization. On the other hand, I work with orthopedic surgeons, molecular biologists, bioengineers, and hydroelectric power companies on applied research. I use a much wider array of computational and statistical tools in these lines of work.
My dream is to travel the road that is less- or even un-traveled, where I start from a very applied corner, make a few turns on to a theoretical avenue, prove a bunch of mathematical results, then get back on the applied path to build effective tools to tackle the motivating application. I desire to make these journeys with hard-working students as well as colleagues, both of whom make such trips a lot of fun!
For more information (including links to videos from my lectures),
visit my personal page at www.wsu.edu/~kbala.