Hi, my name is Jihong Huang and I have finished my third year in computer science and statistics at the University of Toronto. During this summer, I had the great chance to work on my ROP399 project under the guide of Dr. Pascal Tyrell. In such a pandemic, everything was a bit different from usual, including this program. Still, I would like to share my experience and lessons from this summer with you!
After three years in the university and so many different courses in statistics and computer science, I thought that I was totally prepared to take a try in some research projects with knowledge learnt in lectures. However, it turned out that my thoughts were completely wrong! Everything was different from the lectures, where professors will teach step by step with detailed notes. I needed to create my own proposal and design the experiments, independently like a scholar instead of a student. Despite Dr. Tyrrell’s help, I struggled to figure out my schedule for the project. Such an experience was quite unique and special to me compared with time in lecture assignments.
After all the setups, I began to handle the coding part of my project. I picked YOLOv3 as my application of bounding box regression. YOLOv3 is one of the most popular bounding box regression algorithms and it already has excellent performances in many fields. At the same time, it has its complex structures and mechanisms that are longer and more complicated than any code that I have ever learnt. It looks like only the combination of classification and localization, where each single algorithm is easy to understand but the combination is much more advanced than my lectures notes! It took me weeks to roughly figure out its mechanism. Then, I devoted myself to debugging the code. That was difficult, as I was not familiar with most of the packages used. Some issues were caused by different versions of packages, while some were made by subtle wrong code. The adjustments of hyperparameters were also annoying as I usually could not find the optimal solutions for them. Thanks to the great help from Mauro, I finally made my code work on the server successfully.
At the end of the whole trip in my project, I gained a lot of advanced knowledge about bounding box regression and many relating packages, which I would probably never touch before my graduation if I did not take this project. However, my most precious lessons are not about any specific coding ability. The most important lesson is what scientific research is and how it should be done. I learnt that it is very important to make a clear and specific proposal as the plan in the beginning as it would provide the guidelines for any further experiments on coding. Otherwise, it would be easy to go off track and lose the initial goal when thousands of lines of code overwhelm. Also, there could always be failures in scientific research. I spent more than half of my time making and fixing mistakes during the project, which frustrated me a lot in the process. My final conclusion was suggesting that the algorithm selected was not performing well. But they were all common in scientific research. As we learn from failures, the failures are meaningful, and we could make further progress based on them. Thanks to the help from Dr. Tyrrell and all other lab members, it was them that helped me out of frustration during the project and offered me valuable advice.
After this project of three months, I learnt a lot from my first try in the world of scientific research, including coding skills and scientific spirits. This experience provided me with important guidance on my future direction of study and I think all the time and efforts are worthwhile.
– Jihong Huang