Avner May

Avner May 

Postdoctoral Scholar
Statistical Machine Learning Group
Department of Computer Science, Stanford University
Advisor: Christopher RĂ©

Contact Information

Email: avnermay [at] cs (dot) stanford (dot) edu
Office: Gates 458, 353 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305

About me

I completed my PhD in Computer Science at Columbia University in December 2017, advised by Prof. Michael Collins. Prior to my PhD, I worked for two years as a software development engineer at Microsoft, living in Seattle, WA. I graduated in 2009 from Harvard College, where I majored in Mathematics, with a minor in Computer Science. I am originally from Potomac, MD.

Research Interests

My main area of interest is large-scale machine learning. For my dissertation, I worked on scaling kernel approximation methods to the challenging non-linear classification problems in speech recognition systems. Although kernel methods have been extensively studied, and have a strong theoretical foundation, there has been relatively little success scaling these methods to large-scale problems like speech recognition and computer vision. Currently, deep learning methods are the state of the art in these domains. My work is the first to show that kernel methods can effectively compete with deep neural networks in the context of speech recognition. I am interested in better understanding the differences between these two families of models, as well as improving these methods.

Prior to working on machine learning, I did two years of research in social network analysis, advised by Prof. Augustin Chaintreau; I studied whether social networks like Facebook or Twitter are efficient systems for delivering content of interest to their users (2011-2013).

Other Interests

I love most things that involve being active and outdoors  —  running, biking, snowboarding, hiking, camping, and basically anything in the mountains. During the summer of 2017 I spent 2.5 months on the Pacific Crest Trail. I am very interested in food systems and nutrition, and how they affect our health, the environment, and the well-being of animals.


Posters and Presentations