Saturday, January 13, 2007

Catching up: TECS in Pune

Harrick Vin and Mathai Joseph of Tata's research division organized Excellence in Computer Science (TECS) week at Pune Jan 3--7, 2007. There were 6 lectures each by Jim Kurose (sensor networking), Raghu Ramakrishnan (databases), Alex Smola (machine learning) and me (algorithms & theory), all related to analyzing massive data sets. Raghu. Jim and Alex gave very high quality lectures. I am sure the slides and videos of the lectures will be online soon. Me, well, in Yankee-esque language, I had trouble "locating" a couple of the lectures, but found my rhythm during the others.

Jim spoken about real-life experience with sensors for radar data gathering and other applications, a project that teaches one a lot from physics, hardware to systems. Raghu, inimitable, spoke about building database systems for web data. I liked his work on probabilistic databases, and suspect that is an area in which we will (need to) see followup. Alex gave almost encyclopedic lectures on machine learning, and I particularly liked the tips, do's and dont's sprinkled in his lectures. Lot of students in the audience. Also, the ever-sharp Jay Misra and the elegant C. R. Muthukrishnan from IIT M. I was touched that Raghu thanked all the teachers in India, who sometimes at great loss to themselves, shaped generations of Indian Computer Scientists we see around us now. He also reminded me of the topclass team Yahoo! Research has put together: Prabhakar, Andrei, Andrew, Ravikumar, Michael M, Raghu, ...

Social: We watched a fusion performance by a "jazz" band. Unlike other fusion bands, the fusion was subtle and gently handled. The flautist (Milind Date) played the flamboyant trumpteer and bleated us away. The tabla held the drum down to the jazz beat, and wandered off into eastern beats when the mood settled in. Beautiful.


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