Assistant Professor
CHBE 237

Research Summary

Large-scale Optimization, Machine Learning, Energy Systems, Process Control


University of Wisconsin Madison, 2018, Postdoctoral Associate
Purdue University, 2015, Ph.D.
Zhejiang University, 2010, B.E.

Research interests + projects

Dr. Cao’s research focuses on the design and implementation of large-scale local and global optimization algorithms to tackle problems that arise in diverse decision-making paradigms such as machine learning, stochastic optimization, and optimal control. His algorithms combine mathematical techniques and emerging high-performance computing hardware to achieve computational scalability. His goal is also to make these developments accessible to academic and industrial users by implementing algorithms on easy-to-use and extensible software libraries.

Furthermore, Dr. Cao has applied the algorithms and tools to address engineering and scientific questions that arise in diverse application domains, including deep-learning-based control, optimal power system planning, AI-based modelling for biorefining, optimal design of zero energy buildings, image classification for contaminant detection, conflict resolution in energy system design, and predictive control of wind turbines.

Selected publications + presentations

K. Hua, M. Shi, and Y. Cao. “A Scalable Deterministic Global Optimization Algorithm for Clustering Problems.” International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), 2021.

M. Mehrtash, and Y. Cao. “A New Global Solver for Transmission Expansion Planning with AC Network Model.” IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, 37(1), 282 – 293, 2021.

Y. Cao, S. B. Lee, V. R. Subramanian, and V. M. Zavala. “Multiscale Model Predictive Control of Battery Systems for Frequency Regulation Markets using Physics-Based Models.” Journal of Process Control, 90, 46-55, 2020.

Y. Cao and V. M. Zavala. “A Scalable Global Optimization Algorithm for Stochastic Nonlinear Programs.” Journal of Global Optimization, 75, 393-416, 2019

Y. Cao, H. Yu, N. L. Abbott, and V. M. Zavala. “Machine Learning Algorithms for Liquid Crystal-Based Sensors.” ACS Sensors 3(11), 2237-2245, 2018.