Studying bio-structures, it may be postulated that they are optimal with respect to some goal, which means that they are best adapted to the environment. The question is: In what sense is the structure optimal?
It would be natural to apply optimization methods developed for engineering constructions to biological structures. However, the two problems are mutually inverse. The biological structure is known, but it is not clear in what sense (if any) the structure is optimal. In contrast, in engineering problems, the goal is the minimization of a given functional that is not the subject of a search or even a discussion; the problem is to find the optimal structure.
The problem is formulated as an "inverse optimization problem":