Rui Zhu’s ROP399 Journey

I am Rui Zhu. I’ve just completed my third year in the computer science program. I’ve been working in Dr. Tyrrell’s lab on my ROP399 project in the past summer, which is a new and wonderful experience for me.

When I am writing down this reflection, and at some other decision-making moment in the future, it reminds me of the interview with Dr. Tyrrell, where he asked me why I chose his lab and why he chose me. I had tons of reasons for choosing his lab. However, honestly, it was hard for me to put up a whole sentence to answer why he would choose me. “I haven’t done research before, and everything needs a start,” I remember I said unconfidently, “so I need this chance to see if I am really interested in it and see how it goes”. Fortunately, I received Dr. Tyrrell’s offer a few days after the interview, and my very first research experience started.

My ROP project is on imperfect gold standard, which is the consensus of the readers. More specifically, the project is about training models on dataset labelled by readers who make mistakes. At first, I started by reading a lot of papers on robust learning. However, when I had my first meeting with Dr. Tyrrell and Atsuhiro, who kindly helped me with my project, I could not answer what is the definition of imperfect gold standard and why we need consensus of the readers. Atsuhiro helped me out. He explained the problem in real-world applications, where multiple readers annotate a huge dataset without looking at each other’s labels, because it is time-consuming and costly. I learnt the lesson that doing research starts by thinking why I am doing this rather than thinking how to do it. I kept getting questions like why my project is meaningful.

After sorting my mind, I began writing my premise, purpose, hypothesis, and objectives. I thought it was difficult to write up a whole page for these things, but after finding out that I should not assume people know why I am doing the project, I explained everything to readers in my introduction. It was easier than I thought to put up a whole page. After finishing my premise, purpose, hypothesis, and objectives, I combined them together to be a full introduction. Everything flowed like water.

When I was writing the actual code for my project, not many difficulties were met, as I was getting help from Atsuhiro and Mauro. I wanted to thank them for their help. Mauro taught me how to use Pytorch Lightning, which structured Pytorch code in a way easy to understand. Atsuhiro helped me confirm my experimental methodology and gave me guidance on what robust learning techniques to use for my project. Moreover, I started very early to familiarize myself with the code.

Overall, the journey on my summer ROP research was wonderful. I learnt how to start research from scratch and some knowledge in robust learning, although I am only scratching the surface of it. It was a pleasure for me to work in Dr. Tyrrell’s lab this summer. I look forward to what I can do in the future in the world of research.

– Rui Zhu