Robert Nowak

University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States

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Publications (256)241.71 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The dueling bandit problem is a variation of the classical multi-armed bandit in which the allowable actions are noisy comparisons between pairs of arms. This paper focuses on a new approach for finding the "best" arm according to the Borda criterion using noisy comparisons. We prove that in the absence of structural assumptions, the sample complexity of this problem is proportional to the sum of the inverse squared gaps between the Borda scores of each suboptimal arm and the best arm. We explore this dependence further and consider structural constraints on the pairwise comparison matrix (a particular form of sparsity natural to this problem) that can significantly reduce the sample complexity. This motivates a new algorithm called Successive Elimination with Comparison Sparsity (SECS) that exploits sparsity to find the Borda winner using fewer samples than standard algorithms. We also evaluate the new algorithm experimentally with synthetic and real data. The results show that the sparsity model and the new algorithm can provide significant improvements over standard approaches.
    01/2015;
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    ABSTRACT: Consider a generic $r$-dimensional subspace of $\mathbb{R}^d$, $r<d$, and suppose that we are only given projections of this subspace onto small subsets of the canonical coordinates. The paper establishes necessary and sufficient deterministic conditions on the subsets for subspace identifiability.
    10/2014;
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    Mario A. T. Figueiredo, Robert D. Nowak
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    ABSTRACT: This paper studies ordered weighted L1 (OWL) norm regularization for sparse estimation problems with strongly correlated variables. We prove sufficient conditions for clustering based on the correlation/colinearity of variables using the OWL norm, of which the so-called OSCAR is a particular case. Our results extend previous ones for OSCAR in several ways: for the squared error loss, our conditions hold for the more general OWL norm and under weaker assumptions; we also establish clustering conditions for the absolute error loss, which is, as far as we know, a novel result. Furthermore, we characterize the statistical performance of OWL norm regularization for generative models in which certain clusters of regression variables are strongly (even perfectly) correlated, but variables in different clusters are uncorrelated. We show that if the true p-dimensional signal generating the data involves only s of the clusters, then O(s log p) samples suffice to accurately estimate the signal, regardless of the number of coefficients within the clusters. The estimation of s-sparse signals with completely independent variables requires just as many measurements. In other words, using the OWL we pay no price (in terms of the number of measurements) for the presence of strongly correlated variables.
    09/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We give deterministic necessary and sufficient conditions to guarantee that if a subspace fits certain partially observed data from a union of subspaces, it is because such data really lies in a subspace. Furthermore, we give deterministic necessary and sufficient conditions to guarantee that if a subspace fits certain partially observed data, such subspace is unique. We do this by characterizing when and only when a set of incomplete vectors behaves as a single but complete one.
    08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We consider the problem of estimating the evolutionary history of a set of species (phylogeny or species tree) from several genes. It has been known however that the evolutionary history of individual genes (gene trees) might be topologically distinct from each other and from the underlying species tree, possibly confounding phylogenetic analysis. A further complication in practice is that one has to estimate gene trees from molecular sequences of finite length. We provide the first full data-requirement analysis of a species tree reconstruction method that takes into account estimation errors at the gene level. Under that criterion, we also devise a novel algorithm that provably improves over all previous methods in a regime of interest.
    2014 IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory (ISIT); 06/2014
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    ABSTRACT: We consider the problem of estimating the evolutionary history of a set of species (phylogeny or species tree) from several genes. It is known that the evolutionary history of individual genes (gene trees) might be topologically distinct from each other and from the underlying species tree, possibly confounding phylogenetic analysis. A further complication in practice is that one has to estimate gene trees from molecular sequences of finite length. We provide the first full data-requirement analysis of a species tree reconstruction method that takes into account estimation errors at the gene level. Under that criterion, we also devise a novel reconstruction algorithm that provably improves over all previous methods in a regime of interest.
    IEEE/ACM Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics 04/2014; · 1.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This paper studies graphical model selection, i.e., the problem of estimating a graph of statistical relationships among a collection of random variables. Conventional graphical model selection algorithms are passive, i.e., they require all the measurements to have been collected before processing begins. We propose an active learning algorithm that uses junction tree representations to adapt future measurements based on the information gathered from prior measurements. We prove that, under certain conditions, our active learning algorithm requires fewer scalar measurements than any passive algorithm to reliably estimate a graph. A range of numerical results validate our theory and demonstrates the benefits of active learning.
    04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: This paper studies graphical model selection, i.e., the problem of estimating a graph of statistical relationships among a collection of random variables. Conventional graphical model selection algorithms are passive, i.e., they require all the measurements to have been collected before processing begins. We propose an active learning algorithm that uses junction tree representations to adapt future measurements based on the information gathered from prior measurements. We prove that, under certain conditions, our active learning algorithm requires fewer scalar measurements than any passive algorithm to reliably estimate a graph. A range of numerical results validate our theory and demonstrates the benefits of active learning.
    04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: This paper studies graphical model selection, i.e., the problem of estimating a graph of statistical relationships among a collection of random variables. Conventional graphical model selection algorithms are passive, i.e., they require all the measurements to have been collected before processing begins. We propose an active learning algorithm that uses junction tree representations to adapt future measurements based on the information gathered from prior measurements. We prove that, under certain conditions, our active learning algorithm requires fewer scalar measurements than any passive algorithm to reliably estimate a graph. A range of numerical results validate our theory and demonstrates the benefits of active learning.
    04/2014;
  • Kevin Jamieson, Robert Nowak
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    ABSTRACT: This paper is concerned with identifying the arm with the highest mean in a multi-armed bandit problem using as few independent samples from the arms as possible. While the so-called “best arm problem” dates back to the 1950s, only recently were two qualitatively different algorithms proposed that achieve the optimal sample complexity for the problem. This paper reviews these recent advances and shows that most best-arm algorithms can be described as variants of the two recent optimal algorithms. For each algorithm type we consider a specific instance to analyze both theoretically and empirically thereby exposing the core components of the theoretical analysis of these algorithms and intuition about how the algorithms work in practice. The derived sample complexity bounds are novel, and in certain cases improve upon previous bounds. In addition, we compare a variety of state-of-the-art algorithms empirically through simulations for the best-arm-problem.
    2014 48th Annual Conference on Information Sciences and Systems (CISS); 03/2014
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    ABSTRACT: Binary logistic regression with a sparsity constraint on the solution plays a vital role in many high dimensional machine learning applications. In some cases, the features can be grouped together, so that entire subsets of features can be selected or zeroed out. In many applications, however, this can be very restrictive. In this paper, we are interested in a less restrictive form of structured sparse feature selection: we assume that while features can be grouped according to some notion of similarity, not all features in a group need be selected for the task at hand. This is sometimes referred to as a "sparse group" lasso procedure, and it allows for more flexibility than traditional group lasso methods. Our framework generalizes conventional sparse group lasso further by allowing for overlapping groups, an additional flexibility that presents further challenges. The main contribution of this paper is a new procedure called Sparse Overlapping Sets (SOS) lasso, a convex optimization program that automatically selects similar features for learning in high dimensions. We establish consistency results for the SOSlasso for classification problems using the logistic regression setting, which specializes to results for the lasso and the group lasso, some known and some new. In particular, SOSlasso is motivated by multi-subject fMRI studies in which functional activity is classified using brain voxels as features, source localization problems in Magnetoencephalography (MEG), and analyzing gene activation patterns in microarray data analysis. Experiments with real and synthetic data demonstrate the advantages of SOSlasso compared to the lasso and group lasso.
    02/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Second-harmonic generation (SHG) imaging can help reveal interactions between collagen fibers and cancer cells. Quantitative analysis of SHG images of collagen fibers is challenged by the heterogeneity of collagen structures and low signal-to-noise ratio often found while imaging collagen in tissue. The role of collagen in breast cancer progression can be assessed post acquisition via enhanced computation. To facilitate this, we have implemented and evaluated four algorithms for extracting fiber information, such as number, length, and curvature, from a variety of SHG images of collagen in breast tissue. The image-processing algorithms included a Gaussian filter, SPIRAL-TV filter, Tubeness filter, and curvelet-denoising filter. Fibers are then extracted using an automated tracking algorithm called fiber extraction (FIRE). We evaluated the algorithm performance by comparing length, angle and position of the automatically extracted fibers with those of manually extracted fibers in twenty-five SHG images of breast cancer. We found that the curvelet-denoising filter followed by FIRE, a process we call CT-FIRE, outperforms the other algorithms under investigation. CT-FIRE was then successfully applied to track collagen fiber shape changes over time in an in vivo mouse model for breast cancer.
    Journal of Biomedical Optics 01/2014; 19(1):16007. · 2.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The paper proposes a novel upper confidence bound (UCB) procedure for identifying the arm with the largest mean in a multi-armed bandit game in the fixed confidence setting using a small number of total samples. The procedure cannot be improved in the sense that the number of samples required to identify the best arm is within a constant factor of a lower bound based on the law of the iterated logarithm (LIL). Inspired by the LIL, we construct our confidence bounds to explicitly account for the infinite time horizon of the algorithm. In addition, by using a novel stopping time for the algorithm we avoid a union bound over the arms that has been observed in other UCB-type algorithms. We prove that the algorithm is optimal up to constants and also show through simulations that it provides superior performance with respect to the state-of-the-art.
    12/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Multitask learning can be effective when features useful in one task are also useful for other tasks, and the group lasso is a standard method for selecting a common subset of features. In this paper, we are interested in a less restrictive form of multitask learning, wherein (1) the available features can be organized into subsets according to a notion of similarity and (2) features useful in one task are similar, but not necessarily identical, to the features best suited for other tasks. The main contribution of this paper is a new procedure called Sparse Overlapping Sets (SOS) lasso, a convex optimization that automatically selects similar features for related learning tasks. Error bounds are derived for SOSlasso and its consistency is established for squared error loss. In particular, SOSlasso is motivated by multi- subject fMRI studies in which functional activity is classified using brain voxels as features. Experiments with real and synthetic data demonstrate the advantages of SOSlasso compared to the lasso and group lasso.
    11/2013;
  • M.L. Malloy, Gongguo Tang, R.D. Nowak
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    ABSTRACT: This paper studies the sample complexity of searching over multiple populations. We consider a large number of populations, each corresponding to either distribution P0 or P1. The goal of the search problem studied here is to find one population corresponding to distribution P1 with as few samples as possible. The main contribution is to quantify the number of samples needed to correctly find one such population. We consider two general approaches: nonadaptive sampling methods, which sample each population a predetermined number of times until a population following P1 is found, and adaptive sampling methods, which employ sequential sampling schemes for each population. We first derive a lower bound on the number of samples required by any sampling scheme. We then consider an adaptive procedure consisting of a series of sequential probability ratio tests, and show it comes within a constant factor of the lower bound. We give explicit expressions for this constant when samples of the populations follow Gaussian and Bernoulli distributions. An alternative adaptive scheme is discussed which does not require full knowledge of P1, and comes within a constant factor of the optimal scheme. For comparison, a lower bound on the sampling requirements of any nonadaptive scheme is presented.
    IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 08/2013; 59(8):5039-5050. · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    Matthew L. Malloy, Robert D. Nowak
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    ABSTRACT: This paper proposes a simple adaptive sensing and group testing algorithm for sparse signal recovery. The algorithm, termed Compressive Adaptive Sense and Search (CASS), is shown to be near-optimal in that it succeeds at the lowest possible signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR) levels. Like traditional compressed sensing based on random non-adaptive design matrices, the CASS algorithm requires only k log n measurements to recover a k-sparse signal of dimension n. However, CASS succeeds at SNR levels that are a factor log n less than required by standard compressed sensing. From the point of view of constructing and implementing the sensing operation as well as computing the reconstruction, the proposed algorithm is substantially less computationally intensive than standard compressed sensing. CASS is also demonstrated to perform considerably better in practice through simulation. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of an adaptive compressed sensing algorithm with near-optimal theoretical guarantees and excellent practical performance. This paper also shows that methods like compressed sensing, group testing, and pooling have an advantage beyond simply reducing the number of measurements or tests -- adaptive versions of such methods can also improve detection and estimation performance when compared to non-adaptive direct (uncompressed) sensing.
    IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 06/2013; · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Sampling from distributions to find the one with the largest mean arises in a broad range of applications, and it can be mathematically modeled as a multi-armed bandit problem in which each distribution is associated with an arm. This paper studies the sample complexity of identifying the best arm (largest mean) in a multi-armed bandit problem. Motivated by large-scale applications, we are especially interested in identifying situations where the total number of samples that are necessary and sufficient to find the best arm scale linearly with the number of arms. We present a single-parameter multi-armed bandit model that spans the range from linear to superlinear sample complexity. We also give a new algorithm for best arm identification, called PRISM, with linear sample complexity for a wide range of mean distributions. The algorithm, like most exploration procedures for multi-armed bandits, is adaptive in the sense that the next arms to sample are selected based on previous samples. We compare the sample complexity of adaptive procedures with simpler non-adaptive procedures using new lower bounds. For many problem instances, the increased sample complexity required by non-adaptive procedures is a polynomial factor of the number of arms.
    06/2013;
  • Divyanshu Vats, Robert Nowak
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    ABSTRACT: An undirected graphical model is a joint probability distribution defined on an undirected graph $G^*$, where the vertices in the graph index a collection of random variables and the edges encode conditional independence relationships amongst random variables. The undirected graphical model selection (UGMS) problem is to estimate the graph $G^*$ given observations drawn from the undirected graphical model. This paper proposes a framework for decomposing the UGMS problem into multiple subproblems over clusters and subsets of the separators in a junction tree. The junction tree is constructed using a graph that contains a superset of the edges in $G^*$. We highlight three main properties of using junction trees for UGMS. First, different regularization parameters or different UGMS algorithms can be used to learn different parts of the graph. This is possible since the subproblems we identify can be solved independently of each other. Second, under certain conditions, a junction tree based UGMS algorithm can produce consistent results with exponentially fewer observations than the usual requirements of existing algorithms. Third, both our theoretical and experimental results show that the junction tree framework does a significantly better job at finding the weakest edges in a graph than existing methods. This property is a consequence of both the first and second properties. Finally, we note that our framework is independent of the choice of the UGMS algorithm and can be used as a wrapper around standard UGMS algorithms for more accurate graph estimation.
    04/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: This paper considers the problem of recovering an unknown sparse p\times p matrix X from an m\times m matrix Y=AXB^T, where A and B are known m \times p matrices with m << p. The main result shows that there exist constructions of the "sketching" matrices A and B so that even if X has O(p) non-zeros, it can be recovered exactly and efficiently using a convex program as long as these non-zeros are not concentrated in any single row/column of X. Furthermore, it suffices for the size of Y (the sketch dimension) to scale as m = O(\sqrt{# nonzeros in X} \times log p). The results also show that the recovery is robust and stable in the sense that if X is equal to a sparse matrix plus a perturbation, then the convex program we propose produces an approximation with accuracy proportional to the size of the perturbation. Unlike traditional results on sparse recovery, where the sensing matrix produces independent measurements, our sensing operator is highly constrained (it assumes a tensor product structure). Therefore, proving recovery guarantees require non-standard techniques. Indeed our approach relies on a novel result concerning tensor products of bipartite graphs, which may be of independent interest. This problem is motivated by the following application, among others. Consider a p\times n data matrix D, consisting of n observations of p variables. Assume that the correlation matrix X:=DD^{T} is (approximately) sparse in the sense that each of the p variables is significantly correlated with only a few others. Our results show that these significant correlations can be detected even if we have access to only a sketch of the data S=AD with A \in R^{m\times p}.
    03/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: This special issue features papers that highlight a variety of anomaly detection techniques in the context of many important applications including networks, homeland security, and healthcare.We accepted 13 papers for publication out of a large number of submitted manuscripts. The first series of seven papers appearing in the special issue are focused on new problem structures. The next set of six papers are somewhat focused more towards specific applications. Several papers in the first half of the special issue are generally motivated by applications arising in sensor, communication and social networks. The next set of three papers describes techniques for homeland security and surveillance applications.
    IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Signal Processing 02/2013; 7(1):1-3. · 3.63 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

9k Citations
241.71 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2–2015
    • University of Wisconsin–Madison
      • Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
      Madison, Wisconsin, United States
  • 1999–2011
    • Boston University
      • • Department of Computer Science
      • • Department of Mathematics and Statistics
      Boston, MA, United States
  • 2010
    • University of Minnesota Twin Cities
      • Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
      Minneapolis, MN, United States
    • Princeton University
      Princeton, New Jersey, United States
  • 1996–2010
    • Rice University
      • Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
      Houston, Texas, United States
  • 2008
    • Technical University of Lisbon
      • Instituto de Telecomunicações (IT)
      Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 2002–2008
    • McGill University
      • Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2007
    • Duke University
      • Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)
      Durham, NC, United States
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      Los Angeles, California, United States
  • 2003
    • Institute of Telecommunications
      Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 1996–1999
    • Michigan State University
      • Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
      East Lansing, MI, United States