Open Postdoc Positions @ Rice

I am actively recruiting to fill two open postdoc positions for research in machine learning theory and methods, computational sensing/imaging, and sparse signal processing.  The Rice DSP and Machine Learning groups offer an energizing environment for research; 25 recent postdocs and PhD students have been placed in top faculty positions.
More information soon on the application procedure.

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Compressive Sensing Nearing Reality for Medical Imaging

Siemens is rolling out compressive sensing (CS) based mangetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners featuring radically improved scan time.

Read more about their FDA clearance here and the technical details of their approach here.

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State-of-the-Art in Semi-Supervised Learning

semisupFinally, a deep convolutional network that doesn’t require much “hand-holding” in the form of training examples.

Using the deep rendering mixture model, the network largely teaches itself how to distinguish handwritten digits using the MNIST dataset of 10,000 hand written digits.  Results presented this month at the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference in Barcelona, Spain, demonstrate state-of-the-art training results using just 10 correct examples of each handwritten digit plus several thousand additional unlabelled examples.  The trained algorithm was more accurate at correctly distinguishing handwritten digits than almost all previous algorithms, even those trained with thousands of correct examples of each digit.

NIPS paper
More results
More information

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National Academy of Inventors

nailogoRichard Baraniuk, Rice University’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.  He is one of 175 academic inventors named this year, and is now among 757 fellows representing 229 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes.  NAI Fellows have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation to create or facilitate inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.  Combined, they are named inventors on more than 26,000 U.S. patents.

Press release

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OpenStax Wins a Telly

OSlogoOpenStax editor-in-chief David Harris and video producer Trailer Park have won a prestigious Telly Award, the premier award honoring outstanding content for TV and Cable, Digital and Streaming, and Non-Broadcast distribution.  The Telly is one of the most sought-after awards by industry leaders, from large international firms to local production companies and ad agencies.

The team won for the groundbreaking “concept trailer” Terminal Velocity that explains the idea of terminal velocity from the context of a high altitude parachute jump. The video is featured in the Rice Online AP Physics 1 MOOC.


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Thomson Reuters’ Highly Cited Researcher for 2016

Richard Baraniuk was one of 3000 researchers in the sciences and social sciences who authored papers that ranked among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication in Thomson Reuters’ academic citation indexing and search service, Web of Knowledge.

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Universal Microbial Diagnostics using Random DNA Probes

A. Aghazadeh, A. Y. Lin, M. A. Sheikh, A. L. Chen, L. M. Atkins, C. L. Johnson, J. F. Petrosino, R. A. Drezek, R. G. Baraniuk, “Universal Microbial Diagnostics using Random DNA Probes,” Science Advances, vol. 2, 28 September 2016.

Abstract:  Early identification of pathogens is essential for limiting development of therapy-resistant pathogens and mitigating infectious disease outbreaks. Most bacterial detection schemes use target-specific probes to differentiate pathogen species, creating time and cost inefficiencies in identifying newly discovered organisms. We present a novel universal microbial diagnostics (UMD) platform to screen for microbial organisms in an infectious sample, using a small number of random DNA probes that are agnostic to the target DNA sequences. Our platform leverages the theory of sparse signal recovery (compressive sensing) to identify the composition of amicrobial sample that potentially contains novel or mutant species. We validated the UMD platform in vitro using five random probes to recover 11 pathogenic bacteria. We further demonstrated in silico that UMD can be generalized to screen for common human pathogens in different taxonomy levels. UMD’s unorthodox sensing approach opens the door to more efficient and universal molecular diagnostics.

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OpenStax Breaks Through 1.5 Million Students

More than 1.5 million college students have used a free textbook from OpenStax, the Rice University-publisher announced today. The number of students using OpenStax textbooks in college and high school courses has more than doubled since January 2016, and OpenStax estimates it will save students $70 million in the 2016-17 academic year.

“More than 811,000 students are using our books this fall, which is a 106% increase over spring 2016. Our books are being used in over 4,500 courses at 2,688 universities, colleges and high schools. This is 27% of all US degree-granting institutions,” said Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax and Rice’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering. “Our books are making it possible for more students to afford college at a time when a college education has never been more important.”

Based on the number of instructors who have notified OpenStax that they are adopting the books in their courses, OpenStax knows that 1.5 million students have used its books since 2012. Based on the date of adoptions, the one millionth student is among the students in instructor Shawna Brandle’s American Government course this fall at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“I’m so happy to be using the OpenStax American Government textbook,” said Brandle, an assistant professor of political science at Kingsborough. “I taught for years using expensive textbooks I didn’t like before trying a different free digital book that wasn’t great. I even tried making my own book, but nothing at any price is as good as the OpenStax book. I’m doubly happy knowing that my students are not paying for a book and are still getting the best resource available, regardless of price.”

OpenStax launched in 2012 with two titles and a unique OER business model: Use philanthropic grants to produce high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free online and low-cost in print.

Current titles include College Physics; Biology; Concepts of Biology; Anatomy and Physiology; Chemistry; University Physics, volume 1; Microbiology; Sociology 2e; Principles of Economics; Principles of Macroeconomics; Principles of Microeconomics; Psychology; American Government; U.S. History; Introductory Statistics; Precalculus; Calculus, volumes 1-3; Algebra and Trigonometry; College Algebra; and Prealgebra.

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Turning Textbook Highlighting into Time Well-Spent

College students love highlighting textbook passages while they study, and a team of researchers in three states will apply the latest techniques from machine learning and cognitive science to help turn that habit into time well-spent.

The four-year, $1 million research program at Rice University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) is one of 18 grants announced today by the National Science Foundation as part of the BRAIN Initiative, a coordinated research effort to accelerate the development of new neurotechnologies.

“Highlighting is something students naturally do on their own, and we want to create software that can use those highlights to improve both their comprehension and knowledge retention,” said Phillip Grimaldi, a co-investigator on the project and research scientist at the Rice University-based nonprofit textbook publisher OpenStax.

OpenStax uses philanthropic grants to produce high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free online and used by more than 680,000 college students at more than 2,000 colleges and universities. Grimaldi said the research team plans to use OpenStax books and learning tools in a number of ways.

First, they will ask OpenStax users to volunteer their highlights for a database that can be mined for clues about the volunteers’ understanding of the text. The researchers also will conduct laboratory experiments at Rice, UC-Boulder and UCSD to come up with new software that leverages the highlighted information to improve learning outcomes.

One reason the big-data approach is needed is that by itself, highlighting isn’t a very effective way to learn, Grimaldi said.

“A number of studies have shown that highlighting does little to improve learning outcomes, but students tend to think that it does, and it makes them feel good about studying,” he said. “At the same time, college students generally aren’t willing to change how they study, so we want to piggyback on what they’re already doing — spontaneously annotating passages of text — and turn that from a marginal activity into one that improves learning.”

This project is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies program. The researchers plan to create software that can predict how well students will perform on tests based on what the students highlight in their textbooks. The researchers will then create tools that use the material a student highlights to create customized quizzes and reviews for that student. The team also will try to determine the optimum time to give those quizzes and reviews to maximize comprehension and retention.

“Data from highlights supplied by OpenStax users will enable us to create tools that are both sensitive to each student’s interests and robust to poor highlighting choices,” said Richard Baraniuk, co-principal investigator on the project, founder and director of OpenStax and Rice’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering. “The idea is to reformulate selected passages into review questions that encourage the active reconstruction and elaboration of knowledge. The design and implementation of the tool will be informed by both randomized controlled studies within the innovative OpenStax textbook platform and in coordinated laboratory studies.”

CU-Boulder’s Mike Mozer is the principal investigator on the grant, and co-principal investigator Hal Pashler will lead the activities at UCSD.

Read the press release

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MOOC Adventures in Signal Processing

T. A. Baran, R. G. Baraniuk, A. V. Oppenheim, P. Prandoni, and M. Vetterli, “MOOC Adventures in Signal Processing: Bringing DSP to the Era of Massive Open Online Courses,” IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, Vol. 3, Issue 4, July 2016

Abstract: In higher education circles, 2012 may be known as the “year of the MOOC”; the launch of several high-profile initiatives, both for profit (Coursera, Udacity) and not for profit (edX), created an electrified feeling in the community, with massive open online courses (MOOCs) becoming the hottest new topic in academic conversation. The sudden attention was perhaps slightly forgetful of many notable attempts at distance learning that occurred before, from campus TV networks to well-organized online repositories of teaching material. The new mode of delivery, however, was ushered in by a few large-scale computer science courses, whose broad success triggered significant media attention.

Paper at IEEE Explore
Preprint at Rice DSP

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