Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Old website on a new server

I no longer can host my website on Temple so I moved it to Waisman's hosting server here! I hope to redesign and update my website sometime.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Track record

Coming from a not-stellar undergrad college I not only got a chance to have a closer look at the value of "track record" in academia and life. Thanks to transition to America I also got to see how system designs can make a difference not only in realizing ones own potential but in essentially defining potentials of human beings.

Lately I have been looking at an inverse problem of learning classifiers for autism using DTI. Not being primarily a machine-learning researcher I focus on an "feature-selection" process for achieving better classification accuracies. Thanks to Chris Hinrichs' help and amazingly useful implementations of Support Vector Machines, I am now able to use these tools to play around verifying the power of different features. It's generally known that any generic computational learning problem is usually infeasible whether using Monte-Carlo methods or using deterministic methods. Feature selection is a very important problem in itself that demands exploitation of structures of the problem at hand. Just this morning I had a nice experience of using a priori information in extracting the features from the DTI data for the autism study and was able to get 100% classification accuracy using leave-one-out cross validation. The features were extracted by Nick Lange using statistical tests and more importantly using biological prior. Statistical tests are usually only a verification step.

Now why all the feature selection mumbo-jumbo for the post titled "Track record". Well, recently Scott posted on his blog about "two-conference solution" for better feature selection in theory community using Innovations in Computer Science (ICS). See, besides which schools you have graduated from, these conferences, journals are fundamentally involved in feature selection process for either a binary classification (good researchers vs. bad researchers) or multi-class problem (exceptional, average, survivalist, bad etc.). Every field has these coveted conferences (like SODA/FOCS/STOC for theoretical computer science, ICCV/CVPR for computer vision, IROS/RSS for robotics) people die-hard to publish in. Even though publishing and bringing in grant money and good feedback in teaching etc. all form huge part of track record for a tenure track publications are the most important and independent dimension necessary for discriminative analysis. There is always a need to balance between "false positives" and "false negatives" in any learning problem in addition to taking care of "outliers/wrong labels".

Since it's hard to change the influence of publications (or find another as uncorrelated feature) on a track record it's important that we try to keep the data in that feature as independent and unbiased as possible. For that there have to be "checks and balances" between types of efforts encouraged in research. This might involve creating new venues for newly discovered efforts. Thanks to worlds most individualistic and worlds biggest democratic society America tends to find such balances in time most of the time (even in establishing track records) and that's what keeps doors open for the underprivileged while banning imposters!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Can traveling be revealing?

My life for the past few months has involved lot of traveling. I heard on TV sometime that traveling to places can be "revealing" and that you get time to introspect your life and find what's most dear to you etc. Well it seems to hold true best when traveling to new and unfamiliar places can give stimulate the urge of introspection. If it's more about traveling to known places and meeting already known people it becomes more of nostalgic and less of revealing.

The most revealing place was watching variety of animals (many for the first time) in the Madison zoo! Different animals were doing different things in their containments. It was amazing to see chimps giving facial expressions ridiculously close to ours and then cute rodent family animals. By watching other animals we realize our most basic assumptions of what we do in our lives rely on simply that "we just evolved to create". Creationism seems to have helped our species much more than anything else in terms of dominating the planet. We create stuff ranging from materialistic things (like food, tools) to objective abstract concepts (like math, science) to subject abstract concepts (religion, spirituality, love). In my opinion "discovery" is only a by-product of our basic creationism. We get bored and loose purpose in life if we don't feel we are creating something. To me it precedes even peace!