Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Stephen Becker

Second Advisor

Mark Hoefer

Third Advisor

Sriram Sankaranarayanan

Fourth Advisor

Carol Cogswell

Fifth Advisor

Vanja Dukic


Bilinear programs and Phase Retrieval are two instances of nonconvex problems that arise in engineering and physical applications, and both occur with their fundamental difficulties. In this thesis, we consider various methods and algorithms for tackling these challenging problems and discuss their effectiveness.

Bilinear programs (BLPs) are ubiquitous in engineering applications, economics, and operations research, and have a natural encoding to quadratic programs. They appear in the study of Lyapunov functions used to deduce the stability of solutions to differential equations describing dynamical systems. For multivariate dynamical systems, the problem formulation for computing an appropriate Lyapunov function is a BLP. In electric power systems engineering, one of the most practically important and well-researched subfields of constrained nonlinear optimization is Optimal Power Flow wherein one attempts to optimize an electric power system subject to physical constraints imposed by electrical laws and engineering limits, which can be naturally formulated as a quadratic program. In a recent publication, we studied the relationship between data flow constraints for numerical domains such as polyhedra and bilinear constraints.

The problem of recovering an image from its Fourier modulus, or intensity, measurements emerges in many physical and engineering applications. The problem is known as Fourier phase retrieval wherein one attempts to recover the phase information of a signal in order to accurately reconstruct it from estimated intensity measurements by applying the inverse Fourier transform. The problem of recovering phase information from a set of measurements can be formulated as a quadratic program. This problem is well-studied but still presents many challenges. The resolution of an optical device is defined as the smallest distance between two objects such that the two objects can still be recognized as separate entities. Due to the physics of diffraction, and the way that light bends around an obstacle, the resolving power of an optical system is limited. This limit, known as the diffraction limit, was first introduced by Ernst Abbe in 1873. Obtaining the complete phase information would enable one to perfectly reconstruct an image; however, the problem is severely ill-posed and the leads to a specialized type of quadratic program, known as super-resolution imaging, wherein one attempts to learn phase information beyond the limits of diffraction and the limitations imposed by the imaging device.