Stefan Faulkner, a Ph.D. student in the Machine Learning (ML) program, began his research journey with an idea, one that could redefine logistical operations – an AI-assisted package-delivery planning initiative. 

The project leverages ML to enhance the precision of package delivery forecasts, identifying potential delays before they occur.  

An aspect of Faulkner's research explores the use of reinforcement learning for Flexible Job-shop Scheduling Problem (FJSP), a technique that holds potential in optimizing manufacturing processes by efficiently assigning tasks to resources within a given timeframe. 

“FJSP focuses on scheduling a series of tasks across various machines. Its goal is to optimize the order of task completion, considering machine capacities and job constraints, to minimize production time and maximize resource utilization. FJSP is solved using algorithms designed to efficiently manage task scheduling in diverse environments.” 

At the vanguard of technological breakthroughs, the AI Institute for Advances in Optimization (AI4OPT), in partnership with the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), stands as a leading beacon for AI-driven advancements in optimization. 

At the heart of AI4OPT’s groundbreaking work, Faulkner, in his role as a graduate research assistant, sheds light on his experiences.  

Caribbean Roots to AI Frontiers 

From the vibrant streets of Kingston, Jamaica, Faulkner commenced his academic expedition into the sphere of Machine Learning (ML). His journey was supported by a strong educational foundation, having earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics, obtained at the University of the West Indies Mona in 2019. 

Faulkner continued his scholarly path by enrolling in the Master's of Science in Analytics program, one that ignited his interest in Machine Learning and Optimization.   

Deeply influenced by his professional experiences and his endeavors in data analysis, Faulkner engaged with several professors whose guidance steered him towards pursuing a Ph.D. in ML. 

“I reached out to Pascal Van Hentenryck, and I told him about my interest in machine learning, supply chain, and optimization, and it kind of went from there.”  

Shaping Tomorrow Through Innovation and Collaboration  

At AI4OPT, many researchers such as Faulkner are actively involved in advancing projects and fostering industry partnerships aimed at leveraging AI to improve various aspects of daily life.   

The institute's strategy to further growth and industry awareness starts with connections like those made with Intel and Kinaxis 

When asked about industry collaboration, Breon Martin, the Director of Communications at AI4OPT, stated, "We actively engage our students with corporate partners, enabling them to contribute to solutions, whether it's in semiconductor chip analysis or other challenges." 

Linking theory to practice, Martin's initiatives at AI4OPT illustrate the academic emphasis Faulkner believes is essential for progress in AI. 

“A solid foundation in mathematics, computer science, and engineering lays the groundwork for effectively tackling complex challenges, essential for achieving excellence in the field of AI.“ 

While discussing Faulkner's future vision, it’s evident that the key to success in AI and optimization is built upon a sound educational foundation. 

With continued advancements in his projects, Faulkner seeks to drive innovative solutions poised at redefining efficiency and innovation, while persistently striving to bridge theoretical research with practical implementation. 

Author: Atharva Anand Dave

Stefan Faulkner

Stefan Faulkner