Meet ML@GT: Cusuh Ham, a World Traveler Focused on Understanding Uncertainty in Machine Learning

Cusuh Ham

The Machine Learning Center at Georgia Tech (ML@GT) is home to many talented students from across campus, representing all six of Georgia Tech’s colleges and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

These students have diverse backgrounds and a wide variety of interests both inside and outside of the classroom. Today, we’d like you to meet Cusuh Ham, a first-year machine learning Ph.D. student who hopes to live abroad after graduation and ultimately become a professor.

Name: Cusuh Ham 

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Advisor: James Hays

Current Georgia Tech degree program/year: First year machine learning Ph.D. student

Other degrees earned and from what institution: BS and MS in computer science from Georgia Tech

Tell us about your research interests. Where might people be impacted by them in everyday life?

My research interest is in uncertainty in machine learning (ML). Specifically, I’m interested in how we can quantify and leverage uncertainty in ML systems to better understand what’s difficult for these systems to learn and consequently, make them more robust to such challenges and produce more informed decisions. This would benefit any application that utilizes intelligent systems/agents, such as autonomous driving and medical diagnoses.

What is it about machine learning that excites you?

I like that machine learning encompasses a wide range of areas and interests. It’s super exciting to be a part of an interdisciplinary community that is collectively working towards tackling major issues. I enjoy working with and learning from people with different skills and backgrounds and hope to continue such collaborations in the future.

What is your favorite place to hang out on campus or in Atlanta and why?

My favorite place on campus is definitely Coda (I can see the Mercedes Benz Stadium from my desk!) As the weather gets warmer, I’ll probably be spending more time on the roof.

Tell us about some of your hobbies:

My main hobbies are playing the violin and piano, watching soccer, and traveling. I also like playing tennis and video games when I get a chance.

Favorite Georgia Tech experience:

Snowpocalypse during my first year of undergrad definitely has to be up there. It was so much fun being outside with everyone else who was also enjoying the snow.

Tell us about the computer vision reading group that you lead.

Since the field of computer vision covers a very broad range of topics, this reading group has been a nice way for students across various vision labs to come together and learn about each other’s specific interests. Some students have also used it as an opportunity to practice for an upcoming presentation at a conference or proposal/defense. We even had a guest speaker from Carnegie Mellon University give a talk during one of the meetings last semester!

Recently, we’ve been trying to extend the reading group to beyond just Ph.D. students so that younger students who are potentially interested in computer vision research can get insight into what goes on in this community.

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Ham presented her work “Contact DB: Analyzing and Predicting Grasp Contact via Thermal Imaging” during the poster session at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Conference (CVPR) 2019 in Long Beach, Calif.

What are your plans after graduation?

I hope to do a postdoc position and then go into academia.

If you were in the circus, what would your act be and why?

I think I would be a trapeze artist. I did gymnastics when I was younger and am still pretty flexible, so hopefully, that helps here.

Who is someone that inspires you and why?

It’s hard to pick just one person who has inspired me because there are many people who have had huge impacts on various parts of my life. I definitely have to highlight my family though because they’re all creative in their own ways and have inspired me to pursue different interests that have been and will always be key components of my life.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

One of my most recent accomplishments was giving a lecture to the computer vision class last semester. I still get nervous presenting sometimes (nevertheless in front of a class of over 200 students), but I want to become a professor so this was a big moment for me.

Describe your perfect Saturday.

My perfect Saturday would consist of going to the campus recreation center (CRC) in the morning, then the Piedmont Park farmer’s market with friends, and then finding a new place to eat.

We’re at the start of a new decade. What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?

I’m looking forward to seeing where I end up settling. I’ve spoken to family and friends about moving abroad for a few years after graduating, so it’ll be interesting to see if that actually happens. At the very least, I look forward to traveling to as many new places as possible.

Ham is a world traveler, visiting places like Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile.

What is the most random or useless talent that you have?

I can hold a headstand for a very long time.

What’s your favorite app on your phone and why?

I really like this app called Endless Quiz, which is just an endless stream of questions about random general knowledge. It includes a link to a Wikipedia article on each topic if you’re interested in learning more. That, or the Reddit app.

If you could time travel, what period of time would you go to and why?

I would go at least 100 years into the future. I can be pretty impatient, and I just want to know what the world is going to be like.

Why do you think embodying Georgia Tech’s motto of “progress and service” is important, especially in regards to ML and AI?

With the huge spike in demand and interest in ML and AI, it’s easy to become shortsighted and focus more on our personal careers to stand out among the fast-paced competition. However,  I think it’s important to embody this motto and remind ourselves that we want our work to contribute to a bigger picture of helping those around us. We are very fortunate to have such a strong and diverse community of faculty and students who are working together to make this a reality.

Learn more about Cusuh and her work at:

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