Meet ML@GT: Xinshi Chen Seeks to Bridge Connections Between Deep Learning Models and Traditional Algorithms

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 Xinshi Chen, a machine learning Ph.D. student who can never take her eyes off of a Coda sunset and encourages other women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to not be shy about sharing their opinions.

Name: Xinshi Chen

Advisor: Le Song, School of Computational Science and Engineering

Major: Machine Learning Ph.D., fourth-year

Previous degrees earned and from what institutions: Bachelor and master of philosophy (M.Phil) in mathematics from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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

I am interested in bridging the connection between deep learning models and traditional algorithms, and leveraging the strengths of one to help the other. These combinations can potentially lead to better deep learning architectures which are more data efficient and adaptable algorithms and can outperform hand-designed algorithms. These improvements over deep learning models and algorithms have the potential to impact many downstream applications in healthcare, biology, finance, and industrial problems such as supply chain optimization and resource scheduling for cloud computing.

What drew you to wanting to research these areas?

I was majoring in mathematics and familiar with traditional algorithms, which are widely applied in everyday life. It is very exciting to see the potential to improve those algorithms by machine learning techniques, and it is also exciting to see how traditional algorithm techniques can be utilized to help design deep architectures. 

What motivated or inspired you to pursue your Ph.D.?

When I was pursuing my master’s in philosophy (research-based master), I found myself enjoying research that is challenging and requires critical thinking and rigorous arguments. Working on my Ph.D. allows me to submerge myself in intensive learning, exploring, and producing in a highly logical and rational way. It is also appealing that you get paid to work on something which is not profit-driven and driven by your interests.

Earning your Ph.D. requires a lot of work and sacrifice. What has been challenging, rewarding or unexpected about this experience?

What is unexpected is how competitive it is in the machine learning community. Many brilliant students and professors are working very hard. It requires a bit of effort to keep up the pace! However, it is also rewarding since you learn things very fast in this way. Another unexpected thing is the current pandemic…a lot of conferences are now being held virtually, so we are losing the chance to communicate with other researchers face to face.

Why did you choose Georgia Tech for your Ph.D.?

I liked the Ph.D. programs at Georgia Tech because they maintain an interdisciplinary nature of modern science.

What’s your favorite Georgia Tech memory so far?

Any sunset at CODA. They’re stunning!

What have you been up to during quarantine?

Mainly working on my research, attending online conferences, and working at a remote internship with Facebook AI. I also checked for the stock status for a Nintendo Switch for half a month and missed attending my best friend’s wedding…lots of ups and downs!

What’s a talent you would most like to have?

Maybe cooking! That’s the simplest way I can make everyone happy.

Tell us about your experience in a male-dominated industry. What would you say to other girls wanting to pursue a career in STEM?

I feel supported for what I am doing. Don’t be shy to share your opinions!

What are some of your hobbies?

I like scuba diving. The underwater world has a wonderfully calming effect. It’s a soothing place where buzzing phones and worries feel a million miles away as my mind focuses on marine life, corals, and colors.

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

I would go forward in time. I am very curious about what the situation looks like after 1,000 years, what and how the problems have been solved by the human races and what new problems they are facing.

What’s your favorite place to study or work and why?

CODA. It’s spacious, bright, and morden. Watching a sunset here is so beautiful.

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

A quote from Einstein, “A hundred of times every day I remind myself, that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and still receiving.”


Press Contact:

Allie McFadden | Communications Officer | allie.mcfadden@cc.gatech.edu

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