I get a lot of questions about how I spent last summer. Normally I just take off to the Bay Area the day my last Spring class is over and fly back the day before my Fall class begins. However, last summer I decided I’ve been in the US long enough to learn everything it has to offer and it was time to explore life across the pond and spend three months at the Alan Turing Institute in London. Then I had two interns coming over to Bloomington so I spent my first ever summer month here. Since it is that time of year, a quick reminder to apply by Dec 15 if you are interested in doing a Ph.D. and stay tuned for the internship call announcement (probably similar deadline).
Summer Interns in Bloomington
IU has started a Global Talent Attraction Program (GTAP) – fantastic program for international summer interns. The program gives you a $4000 stipend and you spend 2 months here at IU. There were a lot of strong applicants so it took me a while to interview all candidates. In the end, the two interns I got were Jakub Boguta (U. Warsaw, ACM ICPC gold this year, must be tough to be in the lead for 4 hours and not win) and Stanislav Naumov (SPb ITMO, ACM ICPC finalist, who spent summer at Google and just arrived on campus). Also, Farid Arthaud joined us from ENS Paris, Ulm with a short recommendation of being “probably the best third-year CS student in France”. If you think you are the best in your country, have U.S. citizenship and don’t need to get paid, shoot me an email ;) Despite it being hot and humid here in Bloomington during the summer, we had a great time.
We decided to dive into deep learning for image classification and figured out how to get more mileage out of standard pretrained neural nets by using them to produce hierarchical clusterings (with guarantees). If this sounds fun, you can apply for GTAP next year (picture by Farid).
London and the Alan Turing Institute
Overall, this was a great experience as it quickly became clear that my neural net is overfit to the US lifestyle. I think of UK as throwing in some perturbations to your visual and verbal input (some may seem adversarial, but mostly just random) which, as we know, is good for robustness, generalization and what not.
- Q: Is grass greener there? A: Yes, of course. Especially, if you live next to the Regent’s Park.
- Q: Is it your cup of tea? A: No, I still only function on Redbull, but the afternoon teas are a great experience. Proximity to cutting-edge tech, CS research and startups still matters most to me. However, if you are into math or finance, your mileage will almost certainly vary. Also, London seems perfect for a short-term visit/sabbatical, especially if you want to take a break from the tech hype, write a book, explore Europe, etc.
- Q: What’s up with the Alan Turing Institute and DeepMind? A: These two are probably the most happening places in the UK right now in academia and industry respectively. They are within a 5-minute walk from each other in King’s Cross. I was staying right across the road and it was perfect except for no AC. ATI serves as a meeting hub for researchers from all of the top UK schools (Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick, UCL, Edinburgh, etc.). ATI is based inside the British library, which was the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century. ATI has its own space inside the library which is equipped similarly to Google/FB offices. Except no free food, only drinks – would you want to have free British food anyway?
- Q: Is Shoreditch the most hip neighborhood? A: I think so, best Sci-Fi graffiti ever.
- Q: Did you meet the King? A: Yes, in Heathrow I ran into a 250-pound dude from Atlanta who made it quite clear that’s him by wearing one of these (except in a larger font and in dirty red color).
- Q: Is Paris still Paris? A: I think so (my third time). K and I took a 2-hour train down there directly from King’s Cross (St. Pancras station, another reason to stay in King’s Cross). We’ve enjoyed our time greatly, especially in Versailles and ENS Paris, Ulm. The Salvador Dali Museum in Montmartre was another highlight of this trip.
- Q: Brexit, Boris Johnson? A: Locals made fun of me for having never heard of Boris Johnson. Is there much to know anyway?