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Discovery of Latent Factors in High-dimensional Data Using Tensor Methods


Unsupervised learning aims at the discovery of hidden structure that drives the observations in the real world. It is essential for success in modern machine learning and artificial intelligence. Latent variable models are versatile in unsupervised learning and have applications in almost every domain, e.g., social network analysis, natural language processing, computer vision and computational biology. Training latent variable models is challenging due to the non-convexity of the likelihood objective function. An alternative method is based on the spectral decomposition of low order moment matrices and tensors. This versatile framework is guaranteed to estimate the correct model consistently. My thesis spans both theoretical analysis of tensor decomposition framework and practical implementation of various applications.

This thesis presents theoretical results on convergence to globally optimal solution of tensor decomposition using the stochastic gradient descent, despite non-convexity of the objective. This is the first work that gives global convergence guarantees for the stochastic gradient descent on non-convex functions with exponentially many local minima and saddle points.

This thesis also presents large-scale deployment of spectral methods (matrix and tensor decomposition) carried out on CPU, GPU and Spark platforms. Dimensionality reduction techniques such as random projection are incorporated for a highly parallel and scalable tensor decomposition algorithm. We obtain a gain in both accuracies and in running times by several orders of magnitude compared to the state-of-art variational methods.

To solve real world problems, more advanced models and learning algorithms are proposed. After introducing tensor decomposition framework under latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) model, this thesis discusses generalization of LDA model to mixed membership stochastic block model for learning hidden user commonalities or communities in social network, convolutional dictionary model for learning phrase templates and word-sequence embeddings, hierarchical tensor decomposition and latent tree structure model for learning disease hierarchy in healthcare analytics, and spatial point process mixture model for detecting cell types in neuroscience.

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