Archive for Belgium

parallel MCMC

Posted in Books, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , on September 9, 2020 by xi'an

Yesterday, I remotely took part in the thesis defence of Balazs Nemeth, at Hasselt University, Belgium. As the pandemic conditions were alas still too uncertain to allow for travelling between France and Belgium… The thesis is about parallel strategies for speeding up MCMC, although the title is “Message passing computational methods with pharmacometrics applications”, as the thesis was suppported by Johnson & Johnson. (The defence was in English, as I do not understand a word of Dutch…)  Among the solutions, distributed affine-invariant sampling à la Goodman & Weare, speculative parallelism for SMC, and an automated parallelisation for hierarchical models that is the core input of the thesis. These methods were not associated with designing new MCMC algorithms but rather intended to take advantage of parallelisation for existing MCMC algorithms, which meant issues like asynchronicity or data splitting were not considered therein. I however found the work in the thesis innovative and promising and the PhD candidate was awarded the title by the jury at the end of the defence!

the future is Europe

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2019 by xi'an

ERC panel [step #2]

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2019 by xi'an

Another post that was written ages ago, about the second round of the European Research Council (ERC) panel on starting grants for mathematics in which I took part as an expert and not as an applicant. While anonymity possibly fell apart for the several dozens of applicants who were shortlisted for interview, in particular more like those few from my own field, the official list of the panel only came out much later. The interviews were quite interesting, obviously, with a strict attention to time and questions to make all interviews as “equal” as possible. And sometimes painful to attend as the candidates were visibly stressed and more over-prepared than not. Which did not necessarily help as the preparation, presumably with the help of local consultants out of maths, had removed some of the enthusiasm behind the project and too much of the maths. I think we all stopped breathing when one applicant broke mid-sentence, as in a theatre play when one actor forgets one’s lines… The rehearsal does not work so well for later questions, even though preparing for these is also essential,  and some upgrading or downgrading may then occur because of a single answer. An unavoidable limitation of the exercise.

Overall I remain impressed by the quality of the collective work of the panel [despite a gruelling schedule on interview days] and of the overall selection of eleven projects, even though it sounds like more theoretical and abstract topics seem privileged, in a bias that seems difficult to counteract. And [not because no statistics proposal was selected this time] making me (and others) wonder whether or not a separate statistics section of the ERC would not be more appropriate, since statistics proposals are not uniquely and solely centred on the maths aspects.

ERC panel [step #1]

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2019 by xi'an

Although this post was written ages ago, regulations of the European Research Council (ERC) prevented me from posting it until now, for confidentiality reasons. I was indeed nominated as an expert member of the ERC panel on starting grants for mathematics [a denomination including statistics, obviously, but also quantum physics or some aspects of it], which means evaluating a hundred-ish applications of young researchers (five years from PhD) to select about ten of them to be richly funded for the coming five years. The reason for secrecy is that the panel members have to be protected from pursuits from the candidates (or, more likely, from their senior mentors). While this is a pretty heavy commitment, above 20 days total, the evaluation process gets quite interesting and the most annoying part is to have to reject proposals that should be funded, were more funds available. (For obvious reasons, I cannot get into the details of individual proposals, but let me just bemoan that there were too few proposals connected to statistics!) I may however get into my appreciation of the collective work of the panel during the first step selection process. I actually knew no other member prior to my joining the panel and was impressed at how smoothly we managed to work together and incorporate different opinions in a joint perspective. When I re-read these sentences, it feels like langue de bois (double talk), really!, but they truly represent my feelings at the end of the meeting. Making me (almost) looking forward the second step of interviewing the selected candidates in another week-long meeting, again in Brussels, for the interviews and final selection and ranking. (Which is when anonymity falls apart.)

 

Brussels snapshot #3 [jatp]

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , on June 23, 2018 by xi'an