Brent Heeringa to Present Lecture on Approximation Algorithms as Part of Faculty Lecture Series

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email:

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., February 28, 2013—Brent Heeringa, associate professor of computer science, will present a talk titled “When Pretty Good is Good Enough: A Tour of Approximate Algorithms” as part of the Williams College annual Faculty Lecture Series. The lecture will take place at 4:15 p.m., Thursday, March 7, in Wege Auditorium, Thompson Chemistry. The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in Schow atrium.

Approximation algorithms provide good solutions to computationally intractable optimization problems. As a result, they are a popular and effective means of coping with real-world phenomena like scheduling classrooms under myriad constraints, finding optimal snow plow routes in large cities, or developing effective strategies for a simple game of 20 questions. Heeringa’s lecture will showcase several natural optimization problems and provide some intuition as to why they are hard to solve quickly. He will also demonstrate procedures that produce good, but not necessarily optimal, solutions.

Heeringa’s areas of interest include data structures, machine learning and functional programming languages, hardness of approximation, and models for the categorical organization of information. He has taught courses on theory of computation, algorithm design and analysis, and advanced algorithms. Heeringa arrived at Williams in 2006, after having taught at the college during the 2003-04 academic year as a visiting faculty member. He received tenure in 2012. He has also taught classes at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Boston University, where he was a visiting scholar for the 2009-2010 academic year.

Heeringa received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota, Morris, in 1999 and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

The Faculty Lecture Series comes to an end on March 14 with Lara Shore-Sheppard, professor of economics and chair of political economy program, with her lecture titled “Insuring the Uninsured Before and After the Affordable Care Act.”


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