6. Optimizer

In Optimizer mode, the Measurement program will try to minimize the value of an expression based on the measured channels instead of looping through the step channels in a pre-determined sequence. This can be useful when the goal of the experiment is to minimize a certain quantity as opposed to mapping out the value of the quantity over the full parameter space.

6.1. Optimizer operation

To enable the optimizer, simply double-click on one of the Step items in the Step sequence list in the Measurement program, switch to “Basic settings” (if not already in that mode), then click the “Optimize...”-button to convert the step item to an optimizer parameter. Instead of sweeping over the parameter, Labber will try to optimize the goal function (see below) by varying the parameter over the range specified by the “Min value” and “Max value” controls in the dialog. The various options in the dialog are described in more detail in Section ParameterSettings below.

6.1.1. Goal function

The next step is to define the goal function and the general settings of the optimizer. These options are available by clicking the “Show Settings” toolbar icon in the top-left corner of the Measurement dialog, and clicking Optimizer in the section list in the left part of the dialog. The most import setting is the optimizer goal function, which is defined by the expression in the “Minimization function”-control. The goal function takes the latest measured values of the log channels as inputs and must return a single scalar value. The optimizer algorithm will then try to minimize the value of the goal function by iteratively varying the various optimizer parameters.

The inputs available to the goal function are the latest values of the measured log channels, provided in the numpy list y. Each element in the list corresponds to a channel, and the order of the elements is the same as the order at which the log channels appear in the Measurement Editor. If you are using a single log channel, its value can be accessed by y[0]. However, note that y[0] may be scalar or vector-valued, depending on if the particular log channel returns a trace of a single value. For the optimizer to work, the goal function must always return a scalar, so if your log channel is vector-valued you need to apply some operation to convert the vector to a scalar. For example, mean(y[0]) would optimize with respect to the mean of the measured trace. In addition to y, the vector x with the latest values of the optimizer parameters is also available as an input to the minimization function. You can use any Python and numpy expression when defining the goal function.

6.1.2. Termination and convergence criteria

There are three possible criteria for defining when the optimizer should terminate the optimization process.

Absolute target reached:
If the value of the goal function is less than the Target value, the optimizer will terminate.
Relative tolerance reached:
If the change in the goal function between calls is smaller than the value given by “Relative tolerance”-setting, AND if the change in the optimizer parameter values between calls are smaller than the “Precision” setting of each parameter, the optimizer will terminate. Note that both criteria need to be fulfilled for termination.
Max number of evaluations reached:
The optimizer will automatically terminate after performing the number of measurements specified by “Max evaluations”.

By default, the “Target value” is set to minus infinity, which means that it will never terminate the optimizer. In addition, the “Relative tolerance” is set to infinity by default, which means that only the “Precision” of the individual optimizer parameters matter for relative convergence.

Note that the termination/convergence criteria may differ for different optimizer algorithms, the description above only refers to the default Nelder-Mead optimizer provided by Labber.

6.1.3. Running an optimizer measurement

When running a measurement with the optimizer enabled, Labber automatically will add a step item named “Optimizer iteration” that handles the optimizer loop. Note that it is possible to run an experiment with a mix of optimized and non-optimized parameters, where the optimizer will execute to find the optimal value of one parameter while stepping over different values of another parameter.

6.2. Optimizer settings

In order to use the optimizer, both the general optimization protocol and the individual optimization parameters must be configured. The various settings are described below.

6.2.1. General optimizer settings

These settings are define the goal function and the algorithm-specific settings of the optimizer, and can be accessed by clicking the “Show Settings” toolbar icon in the top-left corner of the Measurement dialog. The settings are described in detail below.

Algorithm used for optimization.
Max evaluations:
Maximum number of function evaluations/measurements performed before terminating the optimization.
Minimization function:
Function for optimizer to minimize. The measured channels are available in the variable y, which is a list of log channel values. Each list item may be a number or a numpy array, depending on the channel datatype. Default is min(y[0]), which will minimize the value of the first log channel.
Target value:
Absolute value of minimization function at which the optimization will terminate. Default value is -inf, which will prevent the optimizer to terminate until the other optimization goals are met.
Relative tolerance:
Change in minimization function between iterations that is acceptable for convergence. Default value is inf, which will make the optimizer run until the Precision-value of all involved parameters are met.

6.2.2. Individual parameter settings

These settings are individual to each optimization parameter, and can be accessed by double-clicking a channel in the Step sequence list and going to “Optimize...”-mode.

Start value:
Initial value for parameter.
Initial step size:
Initial step size for the parameter.
Min value:
Lowest parameter value allowed during the optimization procedure.
Max value:
Highest parameter value allowed during the optimization procedure.
Target precision for optimizer that will trigger optimizer termination.

6.3. Custom optimizers

It is possible to create custom optimizer modules to implement a specific optimization protocol. The sections below describe how to define and test a custom optimizer algorithm.

6.3.1. Defining custom optimizers

It is recommended to use one of the already present optimizer configuration files as a template. The custom optimizers should be contained in a single python .py file, which must contain a function called optimize which takes exactly two parameters:

Python dict with optimizer settings. The keys have the same names as the labels of the optimizer settings in the Measurement program. The individual parameter settings are stored as a list in the same dictionary, with key optimizer_channels.
Python callable that takes exactly one argument (x). The function will run the Labber measurement for the provided parameter values x, where each value in the vector x corresponds to an optimizer parameter. The function is typically passed directly to the scipy optimizer, see the provided optimizer Nelder-Mead for an example.

The function must return a Python dictionary with tesults from optimizer, using scipy’s OptimizeResult format. The only necessary key is “x”, containing the final optimizer parameters.

When creating a new optimizer, the python file should be given a unique named and placed in the local optimizer folder (the folder named “Local optimizers” in the Preferences window), instead of the global one (“Optimizer functions” in Preferences). This allows the user’s own optimizers to be kept separately from the optimizers provided by Labber, and it also prevents optimizers written by the user from being deleted when updating the Labber program to a newer version.

Note that even when making additions/changes to an existing optimizers from the global folder, the best practice is to copy that optimizer file from the global folder to the local folder, and only make changes to the optimizer version. If optimizers with the same names exist in both the local and the global optimizer folders, Labber will always use the optimizer in the “Local optimizer”-folder.

6.3.2. Using custom optimizers

To make the new optimizer available to Labber, place it in the local optimizer folder and click the menu alternative “Tools/Reload Optimizers” in the Measurement Setup dialog. This will scan the optimizer folders and update the “Method” control in the general optimizer settings.

It is highly recommended to first test the optimizer in a pure Python environment. For an example of how to test the optimizer, see the code at the end of the file Nelded-mead.py provided in the global optimizer folder.