Optimization and the Cold War

Image of Berlin, Germany
Location: Berlin, Germany
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Summer
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: No
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

  • Spend a month in the beautiful capital city of Berlin, Germany
  • Join KU students and Professor Kyle Camarda for this program
  • Apply principles of optimization to the historical event of the Berlin Airlift
  • Receive 3 hours of School of Engineering elective credit, C&PE 601

Taking place in Berlin in summer 2024, the Optimization and the Cold War study abroad program will introduce undergraduates to basic ideas in logistics and optimization theory, its application to scheduling and planning, and a historical context in which logistics was vital to success in geopolitics. The history of divided Berlin, 1945-1989, is a fascinating story of a political island: a city surrounded by a wall, maintained by Allied forces and constrained by the Soviet Empire. 

This class will teach the mathematics behind optimal supply chains, scheduling and planning strategies, and constrained logistics that military and civilian planners used to keep the population of Berlin supported and independent of East Germany. It will include visits to many Berlin-area sites connected to the Cold War period, including Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdam and the Glienicke Bridge — known as the Bridge of Spies — the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Gatow airport, used in the famous Berlin Airlift. A guided tour of Cecilienhof Palace, where the famous Potsdam agreement was signed, is also included. 

Berlin is the vibrant capital city of Germany. The city of 3.7 million inhabitants is known for its diversity, urban green space, nightlife, and tangible history. Berlin is home to several of Europe’s most prominent universities and a large student population, ensuring a youthful atmosphere and many student-friendly amenities. The beautiful Spree River runs through the city center and there are numerous architectural, historic, cultural, and outdoor features to explore. With an expansive system of public transportation it is very easy to get around.

The program will be located for its entirety in Berlin. Multiple excursions in and around the immediate vicinity of Berlin will be an integral part of the program.

With a combination of lectures and site visits, students will gain a new understanding of logistics and optimization and see firsthand how optimization transformed a country and set the stage for the Cold War.

Students will enroll in 3 credits of C&PE 601 Undergraduate Topics in Chemical & Petroluem Engineering. This course can be used for multiple SOE majors as an elective. It will count as an EECS professional elective. 

This course will introduce undergraduates to basic ideas in logistics and optimization theory and its application to scheduling and planning. It will also show the links between advances in mathematics and computing and the ability of the Allies to supply West Berlin during the Cold War.  No prior knowledge of optimization or programming is needed.  An outline of course topics is as follows:

1. Logistics and the Traveling Salesman: Problem Formulation

2. Linear and Nonlinear Programming

3. Integer Programming

4. Applications of Optimization in Supply Chain Management and Logistics


Students will live in double-occupancy, centrally-located student residences in the city of Berlin.  Residences are conveniently located near public transportation with access to major sites.  Breakfast at the residence is provided daily.

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Considerations for Germany

Germany has laws in place to protect ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, the differently abled, and other groups. Same-sex marriage is available in Germany and most large city governments officially encourage and host LGBTQIA+ pride events. 

Germany’s cities and public transportation are generally accessible to individuals with disabilities.  Older sections of the cities and smaller towns may be less accessible due to centuries-old architecture, cobblestone streets, and small indoor spaces. Germany offers services for people who are mobility, sight, or hearing impaired.

Source: U.S. Department of State country information pages and Diversity Abroad.

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

Open to any undergraduate student from the University of Kansas who has completed Math 126 (Calculus II) or the equivalent. A minimum 2.5 GPA is required, but exceptions will be considered upon submission of a petition.

Any student from any academic program or career focus is encouraged to apply, though the program may be of particular interest to students in Computer Science, all Engineering degrees, Math, Physics, Chemistry, Supply Chain Management or related disciplines.  Contact the Program Director for more detailed and specific information.

Dr. Kyle Camarda

Associate Professor, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

University of Kansas.