MIT Theory Lunch

Over the course of my first year in the PhD program, I had the absolute pleasure of co-hosting the biweekly student-led talk “theory lunch” with Justin Chen. Finding a speaker each fortnight was only half the battle, as Justin and I would then have to craft an email announcement to garner interest in the talk. In the past, this interest was garnered in part due to a harvest of catered food provided by the department. However, in this year of plague, devoid of free Indian food, we felt a need to go above and beyond with some goofy emails to get the people talking about theory lunch. It started with some harmless limericks:


Theory Lunch: this Wednesday, Nov 11, 12-1PM
Title: The Kernel Trick and Random Fourier Features
Speaker: Nicholas Schiefer

Non-linear classification:
A problem as hard as crustacean
But with one kernel trick
Even data quite thick
Will be learned with quite low computation

If it’s knowledge you seek to collect,
On those machines of support vect.
Allow Mr. Schiefer
To try and decipher
The work of Rahimi and Recht

So, don’t be dismayed with your kernel
Computations that seem eternal
With Nick as your teacher
Of Fourier feature
They will cease to be so infernal


Eventually, it became full fledged songs and free-style raps. Here is a playlist of some of my faves! Creating these songs was a really fun process and a great way to hone my amateur guitar skills.

Thank you Akamai!

Akamai Technologies helped fund my research for my first year via a fellowship. To show my gratitude, I wrote them this little tune.

EC20 Virtual Venue Guide

Due to COVID-19, the Twenty-First ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (EC20) became the First Virtual Conference on Economics and Computation. The program commitee decided to host the event through Gather, an interactive virtual platform much akin to Pokémon. In this pandemic, previous conferences had used the platform as a means to have coffee chats between talks. EC20 was the first conference that existed entirely in the Gatherverse, from talks to tutorials to afterparties. Huge shoutout to Yannai Gonczarowski, Jason Hartline, and Nicole Immorlica for making this unique experience possible.

24 hours before the conference, they realized that there was no comprehensive guide to demonstrate how to use this virtual platform. I decided to volunteer and put my video editing skills to the test. This was the result:

Burton Conner i3 2019

I spent my undergrad at MIT as a Burton Third Bomber. Being part of such a wonderfully wild family was extremely formative for me and something I am forever grateful for. To repay my immeasurable debt to this fabulous community, I volunteered to make the dorm tour video for incoming freshman my junior year.

Making this video was a long and utterly absurd process. Burton Conner consists of 9 floors spread over two towers, each with their own quirks and traditions. I had to interview members from each floor to learn about their culture, write a rap for every single floor, teach people how to rap, plan out the shots, organize the filming, and do all of the music and video editing myself. Overall, I couldn’t have been more proud of the result.

Tragically, after my senior year, Burton Conner got shut down for 2 years of renovation, effectively extinguishing the student culture that had developed in the dorm over decades. I’m grateful that I got to make this video right before the end; it serves as a bit of a time capsule for student culture that once was.

… and then there was the dorm building tour video. Headphones users be warned.

Acting

Over the course of undergrad, I participated in two plays directed by Professor Jay Scheib. He has a very uniquely manic directing style. He is also a pioneer of the Live Cinema medium. It is a live on-stage performance with a cameraperson who is also on stage, shooting a film in one take that is being broadcast to the audience. Working with him involved both learning lines and learning how to move and set up shots, and it was a truly unforgettable experience.

Here’s footage of me playing Shlink in Bertolt Brecht’s “In The Jungle of Cities”. In this scene, I am forfeiting my company and all of my possessions to a person named Garga. Shlink is a calloused man who hasn’t been able to emotionally connect with another individual for years. He hopes that, through such blinding rage, he will finally be able feel something.