Deep neural networks excel at finding patterns in datasets too vast for the human brain to pick apart. That ability has made deep learning indispensable to just about anyone who deals with data. This year, the MIT Quest for Intelligence and the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab sponsored 17 undergraduates to work with faculty on yearlong research projects through MIT’s Advanced Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (SuperUROP).
Students got to explore AI applications in climate science, finance, cybersecurity, and natural language processing, among other fields. And faculty got to work with students from outside their departments, an experience they describe in glowing terms. “Adeline is a shining testament of the value of the UROP program,” says Raffaele Ferrari, a professor in MIT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, of his advisee. “Without UROP, an oceanography professor might have never had the opportunity to collaborate with a student in computer science.”
Highlighted below are four SuperUROP projects from this past year.
A faster algorithm to manage cloud-computing jobs
The shift from desktop computing to far-flung data centers in the “cloud” has created bottlenecks for companies selling computing services. Faced with a constant flux of orders and cancellations, their profits depend heavily on efficiently pairing machines with customers.
Approximation algorithms are used to carry out this feat of optimization. Among all the possible ways of assigning machines to customers by price and other criteria, they find a schedule that achieves near-optimal profit. For the last year, junior Spencer Compton worked on a virtual whiteboard with MIT Professor Ronitt Rubinfeld and postdoc Slobodan Mitrović to find a faster scheduling method.
“We didn’t write any code,” he says. “We wrote proofs and used mathematical ideas to find a more efficient way to solve this optimization problem. The same ideas that improve cloud-computing scheduling can be used to assign flight crews to planes, among other tasks.”
In a pre-print paper on arXiv, Compton and his co-authors show
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