Monday, August 28, 2006

Notes on Decker's Semantic Web 2.0 Talk

Ex-ISI researcher Stefan Decker gave a AI Seminar last Tuesday on "Semantic Web 2.0". I took a few notes and blogged them here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

the honary Martin Michalowski "Fresh Meat" BBQ

- who wants to go early (as early in the afternoon as possible) and reserve (stake out and claim for ai-grads) a firepit at dockweiler?

if we don't get a volunteer, my sources say it's unlikely we will get a fire pit -- as people come and stake them out early, esp. on weekends (and fridays).

we will have to be "flexible" for this event -- as we're not paying ($200+) for a reservation anywhere, so we may have to move sites to find a park with an open BBQ spot

- the nearly unanimous consensus (as I'm the only one who wanted to do pot-luck) is to all contribute money...
i say we each (those of us attending) give $10 towards the BBQ, and we donate any extra to charity? any other ideas here?

- one idea for this BBQ is to indoctrinate any new students in ISD (hence Martin's clever tag line "fresh meat") -- any comments there?

- i suggest the menu be hambugers, grilled italian veggies (which means summer veg grilled in a foil packet with italian dressing), and smores -- what do you think? what about our vegetarians, what can we do for you?

- Martin did volunteer to take care of the fire, right? :) Does that also mean he's the chief chef, or do we have another volunteer for that?

- I say beer is OK, but maybe BYOB? comments?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Movie Afternoon 8/23

Movie: A Comedy
Where: 4th Floor CR
Time: between 2-4 pm
When: Wed. 8/23
RSVP: Fri. 8/18
Snacks: Yes

Please RSVP if you are interested in coming to the movie so we can figure out what room we want to book.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

you've read AI4U, now experience the ai-grads BBQ4U2

We are considering having a BBQ, after work, on Friday, September 8th, 2006...
it will be for all grads, and their significant others and families...

to avoid reservation, permit, and insurance fees -- we are looking at "free" (but first come first serve) options -- so locally, we are limited to the beach in Playa del Rey (Dockweiler) or at a park in Santa Monica (e.g. Clover or Virginia)

one option is for each of us to bring something for the group -- either sign up, or semi-potluck (i would definitely bring meat, and Martin would take care of the fire)

another is to collect a small amount of money from everyone who wants to attend -- and then we would purchase everything

this would be a great chance to socialize outside of work, enjoy socal weather, meet family and friends, etc.

PLEASE COMMENT -- what are your preferences?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Your Favorite Papers

It's been rather slow on the blog lately, so I'll throw out a question to everyone:

What are your favorite papers? The ones that have changed the way you look at AI or your research, the ones that you think would benefit the rest of the world to read?

Friday, June 23, 2006

awards for students

you may now officially start holding your breath!
the official start of the first ever ISD Graduate Student Research Symposium is here!
lots of awards -- everyone will benefit from participating!
Details at

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More Advice on Quals

I'm presenting my Quals on Friday. Anyone have any last-minute advice? (both for me, and for posterity?)

I've been dumping my knowledge/experience into the wiki: AIGrads:AdviceOnQuals.

Feel free to comment here or edit the page with your experiences!

Friday, June 16, 2006

World Cup and AI

So I found this article about 2 students who use AI to predict all of the winners at different stages of the wolrd cup. It's here.

Unfortunately, they don't really talk about the AI other than that it's driven by historical statistics. Also, how hard is it to predict Brazil as the winner?? :)

The best quote is clearly, "Based on statistical analysis, artificial intelligence believes that the host country will lose to the Netherlands in the quaterfinals." This makes it sound like there is some machine named "artificial intelligence" who has its own beliefs about the world cup! Strong AI indeed!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Random Comment about Life as AI-grads dictator

Random Comments about Life in II Group This Week

This week has been cool because we have been following the FIFA world cup in our office. All of us watch games on our computers and just have a blast making comments regardless of which team is playing. We even watched one game on the projector with few fellow students and that was great as well.

The life at ISI in last couple months has been better as the students who organize and attend events have got closer (not that kind of closer Martin). We have have had some lively conversations about random things and that has been good.

In terms of frustrations/bad things, we all have been hoping that more people will participate and of course it would be nicer if I ever end up with positive score in BZFlag :).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Celebrate the end of the semester! - June 2nd 2006

We will celebrate the end of the spring semester on Friday, June 2nd. Cake (from Angel Maid Bakery!) and beverages will be provided. Please RSVP by adding a comment to this post.

Date: June 2, 2006
Time: 4:30pm - 5:10pm
Location: 11th floor conference room

Friday, May 19, 2006

Tutorial: Bayesian Techniques for NLP

Title: Beyond EM: Bayesian Techniques for Human Language Technology Researchers
Date: 24 May 2006
Time: 9am - noon
Location: 4th floor conference room

Expectation Maximization (EM) has proved to be a great and useful technique for unsupervised learning problems in speech and language processing. Unfortunately, its range of applications is limited either by intractable E- or M-steps, or by its reliance on the maximum likelihood estimator. The natural language processing community typically resorts to ad-hoc approximation methods to get (some reduced form of) EM to apply to NLP tasks. However, many of the problems that plague EM can be solved with Bayesian methods, which are theoretically more well justified. In this tutorial, I discuss Bayesian methods as they can be used in natural language processing. The two primary foci of this tutorial are specifying prior distributions and performing the necessary computations to perform inference in Bayesian models. I focus on unsupervised techniques (for which EM is the obvious choice), but discuss supervised and discriminative techniques at the conclusion with pointers to relevant literature.

Depending on one's inference technique of choice, the math required to build Bayesian learning models can be difficult. Compounding this problem is the fact that current written tutorials on Bayesian techniques tend to focus on continuous-valued problems, a poor match for the high-dimension discrete world of text. This combination makes the cost of entrance to the Bayesian learning literature often too high. The goal of this tutorial is to provide sufficient motivation, intuition and vocabulary mapping so that one can easily understand recent papers in Bayesian learning that are published at conferences like NIPS, and increasingly at ACL. In addition to the standard tutorial materials (slides), this tutorial is accompanied by a technical report that spells out all the mathematic derivations in great detail, for those who wish to start research projects in this fields.

This tutorial should be accessible to anyone with a basic understanding of statistics. I use a query-focused summarization task as a motivating running example for the tutorial, which should be of interest to researchers in natural language processing and in information retrieval. Additionally, though the tutorial does not focus on speech problems, those attendees interested in graphical modeling techniques for automatic speech recognition might also find the tutorial of interest.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Event Summaries

Experiences in Commercializing Research - March 30 2007

AI Grads hosted a panel where Craig Knoblock, Kevin Knight and Ed Hovy spoke about their expriences commercializing their research, and they gave great advice based on their histories. All of the speakers agreed that it is more important that a business idea solves a useful problem rather than just being really cool technology. The speakers also spoke about raising money and protecting your intellectual property. Another constant theme was the importance of hiring good business people such as lawyers and executives. The speakers explained that research companies can use SBIR and STTR grants to raise money, which was really insightful. We ate C & O Italian food and a tasty cake. 37 people (not including the speakers) and 1 dog attended this event, making it one of best attended events yet.

AI Grads lunch with alums - February 16th 2007

We had Greg Barish from Fetch Technologies, Radu Soricut from Language Weaver, and Marcelo Tallis from Teknowledge come in and discuss the transition to working in small business research setting. They pointed out some interesting differences between research in industry and academia, such as the necessity of weighing the potential of research ideas so as to keep a high level of productivity. They also described differences in writing proposals for SBIRs as compared to educational research grants. Marcelo also showed a really cool demo of integrating a deductive logic engine with a spreadsheet application like Microsoft Excel. We had about 27 people enjoying pizza and ice cream cake.

"AI in Games" a discussion by industry professionals - May 31st 2006

We had industry speakers from Savage Entertainment, Heavy Iron, and Pandemic Studios come and talk about their experiences with AI in games at their respective companies. Topics included how to simulate AI in games ("More Artificial then intelligent"), resource constraints, trade-off between expert AI and a fun user experience ("If your smart AI always kills me when I come into a room, that's not a game, its a torture chamber"), and working at game companies ("I make games for a living how bad can it be?"). We had 31 attendees including students and researchers. We served Johnnie's Pizza and soft drinks. (Pictures from the event)

LaTeX Document Formatting Tutorial - May 10th 2006

We had Matthew Michelson and Martin Michalowski present a tutorial on formatting documents using LaTeX . Matt gave a brief overiew of LaTeX and why we should use it. He followed with some "advanced" LaTeX tips and finished by showing some tools for Windows, demonstrating a couple of interesting features of each. Martin showed the main tools available for Mac, focusing on TeXShop in particular and presenting some of its cool features. The seminar also included an open discussion of specific questions related to LaTeX. About 20 people attended the event and empanadas, salad and cake were served.

Life After Graduate School - March 29th 2006

We had three speakers from our division at ISI present their views on different aspects of obtaining jobs after graduate school. The speakers were : (1) Prof. Kevin Knight, (2) Dr. Mark Moll, and (3) Dr. Yu-Han Chang. All three speakers had different backgrounds and perspectives. Prof. Knight talked about what he looks for when he hires graduates, while Dr. Moll talked about his experiences as a post-doc. Dr. Chang talked about how he got hired after graduating. About 30 people attended the event, which had Chipotle burritos for lunch.

Seminar Lunch: "AI in Games" a discussion by industry professionals

Do you like games? Do you want to know how professional game developers use/view AI? Then come to the seminar lunch planned for May 31st! This one will be about AI in video games and our speakers will be people in the industry! Of course, we are also providing free lunch. So come and learn what it takes to make a game fun, eat some food and talk about AI. As we confirm speakers, we will update this post. As usual, please RSVP to this event by adding a comment to this post.

Also, unlike past events, this event is open to anyone at ISI, so please encourage your fellow students and researchers to attend the event.

Confirmed Speakers:
  • Savage Entertainment makers of such games as Star Wars: Battlefront II (for PSP) and Golden Eye: Rogue Agent.
  • Heavy Iron Studios , part of the THQ family, makers of such games as The Incredibles!
  • Pandemic Studios , makers of such games as Full Spectrum Warrior and Mercenaries 2!

Wednesday May 31st at Noon in the 11th floor conference room

Monday, May 15, 2006

WWW practice talk

I'll be giving a practice talk of "Towards Content Trust of Web Resources" (by Yolanda Gil and me) this Wednesday (May 17th) at 12:45pm in the 11th floor CR. The talk will be 25 minutes. Your attention and/or feedback, if you have time, would be very much appreciated!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Latex information

I was thinking this could be a post for people to put some useful Latex snippits, style files, etc. I might as well get this started by posting the USC thesis style file. You can find it here. The style file is actually pretty good at explaining things, but the main commands are:
  1. \usepackage[final,thesis]{USCthesis} %Look in the style file for the different options, there are lots of them for things like qual, final, etc.
  2. \title[]{blah}
  3. \author{}
  4. \committee{Prof 1\\*
    Prof 2\\*
    Prof 3}
  5. \majorfield{COMPUTER SCIENCE}
  6. \submitdate{Month 2005}
  7. You use \chapter{chapter name} instead of \section{}
Lastly, to use the bibliography you need to somethign like:
\references[Reference List]{plain}{refs}

Note that refs is the name of the bibtex file. I hope this is useful.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

LaTex tutorial tools

Hey all,

These are links to the different tools I am going to discuss during the LaTex tutorial. You can download them (they are all free), and play with them to get a sense of how they work:

Miktex -- This is latex for windows. If you are on a windows box, you need this to use latex.

TeXnicCenter -- This is a LaTex IDE. For the new people, this will get you up and running quickly. You can click on icons to insert different Latex commands such as figures or symbols. For the more experience users, this IDE really saves you time in managing your TeX. For example, you can build your documents and display them all in one-click.

LaTable -- This tool lets you build tables visually and then copy the underlying LaTex code to paste into your document. Complicated tables are really painful to write, and this tool makes it a snap!

TeXAide -- This is a visual equation builder. It works similarly to Microsoft's equation editor. You pick symbols and such and build up your world-changing formula, then you can copy the LaTex that generates the formula and paste it into your document. This is awesome since equations in LaTex can be nasty.

A list of tools I will be talking about is in the comments section of this post.
-- Martin

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Postdoc positions available

My dad is a professor at the University of Ottawa and he is looking for postdoc candidates for a medical triage project. The short description states:

The MET Research Group has received new funding for health informatics research entitled Triage Support at the Point of Care: Methodologies for Ubiquitous Systems in the Emergency Department. We are looking for dynamic graduate fellows (doctoral and postdoctoral) to join our multidisciplinary team for a period of 1-2 years starting in September 2006.

More information about the project can be found at its website and more specifics about the postdoc position can be found here. Let me know if you have any questions or simply contact my dad, he's a nice guy....

Monday, May 01, 2006

Latex Tutorial on May 10th 2006

The ai-grads taskforce is hosting a Latex tutorial on May 10th 2006. The tutorial will take place in the 11th floor conference room at 12 noon. Free lunch will be provided (empanadas). If you're interested, please RSVP by posting a reply to this post.

About Latex:
LaTeX is a high-quality typesetting system, with features designed for the production of technical and scientific documentation. LaTeX is the de facto standard for the communication and publication of scientific documents. Find out more at:

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Meet with Ashwin Ram on 5/1

If anyone wants to meet with the speaker, Ashwin Ram on 5/1, just come to the 4th floor conference room at 2 pm. His work seems really cool and relevant. You can check his info and abstract

Thursday, March 30, 2006

AAAI-06 coming up soon...

Everyone at AI-Grads should consider going to AAAI-06, held in Boston July 16–20. Even if you didn't submit a paper, you can still sign up as a volunteer and get your registration fee covered as well as some travel expenses. More information can be found at the AAAI-06 Student Information Site or the conference website.

I will be presenting at the Doctoral Consortium and I'm sure Matt will get his paper accepted so he'll be giving a talk as well. I look forward to seeing other AI-grads there, either as attendees or presenters. Post a comment to provide everyone with information about a talk you may be giving or something you think may be of interest to others.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Feedback and Comments for Next Event

Hi Everyone,

For those of who who attended the ai-grads luncheon event this Wednesday thanks for attending. For those of you who could not attend we hope that youwill be able to join future events.

We hope that everyone had a good time. If you have any comments/questions/suggestions on the event, please post a comment and let other students know. This is the place and time to post a comment if you have classes or other conflicts on wednesday and would like future events to be held on different day. If you prefer different typew of event or different type of speakers, please say so or better suggest events and/or speakers.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

ai-grads web page

Hi Everyone,

The ai-grads webpage now does have a lot of content related to ai-grads (thanks to efforts of Mark, Donovan, and others). However, the web page still has pagerank of 0 on google because it is not linked from many places. To solve this and to guide your fellow students to the page, it would be great if all of us put a link to the Ai-grads webpage on our web pages. So, please put a link to ai-grads web page on your page.

Friday, March 10, 2006

AI-Grads Luncheon

Hi Folks,

From the leftover money in the Ai-Grads funds, the ai-grads taskforce decided to have two events. First of the two will a lunch with a panel of alumnis discussing their experience getting a job and at USC. We are still in process of picking the alumni students for this, but we hope to get at least 4-5 of them involved. Tentative date for this is Wednesday, 29th March.

However, to make this event possible we need your input. We need you all to RSVP for this event by posting a comment to this post. In the RSVP please include your choice of chipotle burrito. I think the choices are veggie, chicken, or steak. Also, please tell us your opinion on the format. Would you prefer that each of the alumni give a short presentation on their experience or just open panel discussion based on questions everyone asks. Please RSVP by March 24th.
Unlike the Friday lunchs this lunch will be paid by AI-Grads, so you don't want to miss it.

So far we have confirmed the following speakers:
Jose Luis Ambite
Mark Moll
Greg Barish
Yu-Han Chang

Lunch on Fridays

Hi Everyone,

In our group, we go out to lunch once a week on Fridays. For those of you who like to go out, eat, and chat, you are welcome to join us. You don't have to commit to come every Friday. Just on Friday that you would like to go call 88302 around 11:30 and let anyone in our office know and we can give you a call before we leave. Usually, we decide where to go eat when in the lobby based on what everyone says.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Video game competition

Don and I have talked at the retreat about organizing some fun activities for the ai-grads. What if we do some video game competition? Would anyone be interested? Any ideas? Any vote for the games? Pong?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Graduate Student Symposium

any additional feedback on this idea before we begin planning?
i have not received any negative feedback, or indication that anyone would not participate -- but i'm slightly skeptical that all of you will join in?
is there anything here we could do to make this more valuable to you?
please comment.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tutorial Topics

If you have any ideas for tutorial topics or things that would be useful to learn as part of the professional development talks, please add them here as comments so we can discuss them. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Good job Mark!
You are more hardworking without me in the office!

Nice job Mark!

This will be very useful. To throw in a shameless plug, do visit the AAAI-06 Student Information Site if you are going to be attending the conference or if you are simply looking for information on AAAI-06.


Announcing the new AI-Grads Blog!
Can't contain your excitement? Then post and let us all know how you feel....