Rice University logoGeorge R. Brown School of Engineering
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Azalia Mirhoseini Wins ECE Best Thesis Award

May 18, 2015 



Congratulations to Azalia Mirhoseini, who won the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Best Thesis Award! Mirhoseini’s research centered around developing a technology for low-cost and scalable machine learning.

“This technology enables performance-efficient large-scale machine learning and can be used for applications such as medical image processing, object recognition, and computer vision,” Mirhoseini explained.

Her advice to students: find your passion and read a lot! Her full abstract can be found below.

Thesis Title: A Data and Platform-Aware Framework For Large-Scale Machine Learning 

Abstract: This thesis introduces a novel framework for execution of a broad class of iterative machine learning algorithms on massive and dense (non-sparse) datasets. Several classes of critical and fast-growing data, including image and video content, contain dense dependencies. Current pursuits are overwhelmed by the excessive computation, memory access, and inter-processor communication overhead incurred by processing dense data. On the one hand, solutions that employ data-aware processing techniques produce transformations that are oblivious to the overhead created on the underlying computing platform. On the other hand, solutions that leverage platform-aware approaches do not exploit the non-apparent data geometry.

My work is the first to develop a comprehensive data- and platform-aware solution that provably optimizes the cost (in terms of runtime, energy, power, and memory usage) of iterative learning analysis on dense data. My solution is founded on a novel tunable data transformation methodology that can be customized with respect to the underlying computing resources and constraints. My key contributions include: (i) introducing a scalable and parametric data transformation methodology that leverages coarse-grained parallelism in the data to create versatile and tunable data representations, (ii) developing automated methods for quantifying platform-specific computing costs in distributed settings, (iii) devising optimally-bounded partitioning and distributed flow scheduling techniques for running iterative updates on dense correlation matrices, (iv) devising methods that enable transforming and learning on streaming dense data, and (v) providing user-friendly open-source APIs that facilitate adoption of my solution on multiple platforms including (multi-core and many-core) CPUs and FPGAs.

Several learning algorithms such as regularized regression, cone optimization, and power iteration can be readily solved using my APIs. My solutions are evaluated on a number of learning applications including image classification, super-resolution, and denoising. I perform experiments on various real-world datasets with up to 5 billion non-zeros on a range of computing platforms including Intel i7 CPUs, Amazon EC2, IBM iDataPlex, and Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGAs. I demonstrate that my framework can achieve up to 2 orders of magnitude performance improvement in comparison with current state-of-the-art solutions.

Thesis advisor: Farinaz Koushanfar



-Jennifer Hunter