Double win at ICT.OPEN 2019: Anna Louise and Can take home pitch prize and poster prize

This year, the ADA group was well represented at ICT.OPEN, the conference for ICT professionals in The Netherlands, which took place on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 March.

Cooperation is key

Prof. Holger H. Hoos gave the keynote lecture on Tuesday morning, talking about how machine learning is transforming the way we do science. He argued that, while competition is important, cooperation is what ultimately makes us conquer the problems of our times.

Impression of Prof. Dr. Holger Hoos’s keynote lecture by Flatland.

Bob the builder

That evening Anna Louise Latour won the elevator pitch competition. In the final round, four PhD students competed to explain their research in under three minutes to a jury and the audience, using only a single prop to illustrate their story.

Anna Louise described how make optimal decisions under constraints and uncertainty, using an optimisation version of the Powergrid Reliability Problem as an example. During her pitch, she used a yellow Bob-the-builder helmet to distinguish between the user with the problem, and the Computer Scientist with the solution.

She impressed jury and audience with the clarity and content of her pitch, and with her charisma, ranking highest in the jury report and receiving three times as many audience votes as the runner-up.

Predictive power

The next day, we had another win: Can Wang was awarded second prize in the Commit2Data poster competition. Her poster explained how Automated Machine Learning can be used to predict the energy consumption of a household. “Pitching my poster to the jury was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I’m very happy that I’ve won!”, Can said afterwards.

Missed it?

For those of you who missed ICT.OPEN this year: make sure to join next year! In the mean time, enjoy NWO’s video of this year’s event:

Cooperation is key, revisited

Of course this outcome was also a team effort. ADA group members, as well as other people from LIACS, helped Can and Anna Louise by providing feedback on their posters and presentations, or being there to cheer.  Therefore, we celebrated as a team, with cakes 🙂

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ADA research group welcomes a new PhD student

Photo credit: Hélène Verhaeghe

Anna Louise Latour started her PhD research in January 2017 at the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies, Electronics and Applied Mathematics (ICTEAM) of Université catholique de Louvain (UC Louvain) in Belgium, under supervision of dr. Siegfried Nijssen (UC Louvain) and prof. dr. Joost Kok (Universiteit Twente). She came to Leiden in February 2018 and joined the ADA research group in November 2018.

Her research is funded by an NWO TOP grant awarded to dr. Nijssen for his PROFIDDS (PRObabilistic Features for Intelligent Declarative Data Science) project. Within this project, she focuses on developing solving methods for problems in which users have to make optimal decisions under constraints and uncertainties.

An example of such a problem is a Power Grid Reliability Problem. Suppose that we want to help a user who runs a maintenance project on an electric grid to make it more robust against natural disasters (like earthquakes or hurricanes). During a disaster, each powerline in the grid has a certain probability of breakage (uncertainty). If too many of them break, important buildings like hospitals may become disconnected from the grid and lose power. By reinforcing powerlines, the user can make them stronger and less likely to break during an earthquake. However, reinforcing lines is an expensive task, and the user only has a limited budget (a constraint). On which powerlines should the user spend their budget, such that they maximise (optimal decision making) the expected number of important buildings that are still connected to a powerplant?

Her aim is to develop solving methods for these kinds of problems such that they are a) generic, and therefore applicable to a wide range of problems, and b) accessible, even to people who are not programmers.

In order to achieve this goal, she combines modelling and solving techniques from both Constraint Programming and Probabilistic Logic Programming.

Together with Marie Anastacio, Anna Louise also supervises Master student Daniël Fokkinga in his Master’s research.