Archive for PhD students

a week in Oxford

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2015 by xi'an

1sprI spent [most of] the past week in Oxford in connection with our joint OxWaSP PhD program, which is supported by the EPSRC, and constitutes a joint Centre of Doctoral Training in  statistical science focussing on data-­intensive environments and large-­scale models. The first cohort of a dozen PhD students had started their training last Fall with the first year spent in Oxford, before splitting between Oxford and Warwick to write their thesis.  Courses are taught over a two week block, with a two day introduction to the theme (Bayesian Statistics in my case), followed by reading, meetings, daily research talks, mini-projects, and a final day in Warwick including presentations of the mini-projects and a concluding seminar.  (involving Jonty Rougier and Robin Ryder, next Friday). This approach by bursts of training periods is quite ambitious in that it requires a lot from the students, both through the lectures and in personal investment, and reminds me somewhat of a similar approach at École Polytechnique where courses are given over fairly short periods. But it is also profitable for highly motivated and selected students in that total immersion into one topic and a large amount of collective work bring them up to speed with a reasonable basis and the option to write their thesis on that topic. Hopefully, I will see some of those students next year in Warwick working on some Bayesian analysis problem!

On a personal basis, I also enjoyed very much my time in Oxford, first for meeting with old friends, albeit too briefly, and second for cycling, as the owner of the great Airbnb place I rented kindly let me use her bike to go around, which allowed me to go around quite freely! Even on a train trip to Reading. As it was a road racing bike, it took me a trip or two to get used to it, especially on the first day when the roads were somewhat icy, but I enjoyed the lightness of it, relative to my lost mountain bike, to the point of considering switching to a road bike for my next bike… I had also some apprehensions with driving at night, which I avoid while in Paris, but got over them until the very last night when I had a very close brush with a car entering from a side road, which either had not seen me or thought I would let it pass. Gave me the opportunity of shouting Oï!

Path storage in the particle filter

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , on July 24, 2013 by xi'an

IMG_0324In the train to Annecy, I read the recently arXived paper by my former PhD student Pierre Jacob (now at NUS), along with Lawrence Murray (Perth), and Sylvain Rubenthaler (Nice), where they obtain precise degeneracy rates of the regular particle filter applied to hidden Markov models with a compact observation space, precise enough to consider storing the entire paths at a linear occupancy rate. Interestingly, the distance to the most common ancestor is of order N log N, if N is the number of particles. And the number of nodes is O(N log N) as well. This means indeed that the whole paths can be stored, which offers a lot of potential in terms of Rao-Blackwellisation and parallelisation. I was first bemused by a silly misunderstanding about the purpose of the algorithm: it is directed at inference at the current time index, not over the whole past and not over the parameters of the model for, else how could we consider the algorithm has converged when it degenerates to a single path at some finite horizon the past? Pierre has also written a further comment of the paper on Statistfaction.