Doctoral Thesis: Scalable Structure Learning, Inference, and Analysis in Probabilistic Programs

Tuesday, June 21
3:00 pm

32-D463 (Star)

Feras Saad


Probabilistic programming supports probabilistic modeling, learning, and inference by representing sophisticated probabilistic models as computer programs in new programming languages. This thesis presents efficient probabilistic programming-based techniques that address two fundamental challenges in scaling and automating structure learning and inference over complex data. First, I will describe scalable structure learning methods that make it possible to automatically synthesize probabilistic programs in an online setting by performing Bayesian inference over hierarchies of flexibly structured symbolic program representations, for discovering models of time series data, tabular data, and relational data. Second, I will present fast compilers and symbolic analyses that compute exact answers to a broad range of inference queries about these learned programs, which lets us extract interpretable patterns and make accurate predictions in real time.

I will demonstrate how these techniques deliver state-of-the-art performance in terms of runtime, accuracy, robustness, and programmability by drawing on several examples from real-world applications, which include adapting to extreme novelty in economic time series, online forecasting of flu rates given sparse multivariate observations, discovering stochastic motion models of zebrafish hunting, and verifying the fairness of machine learning classifiers.


  • Date: Tuesday, June 21
  • Time: 3:00 pm
  • Category:
  • Location: 32-D463 (Star)
Additional Location Details:

Thesis Supervisor: Vikash Mansinghka