Shaan Qamar

Shaan Qamar
External address: 
Sunnyvale, CA
Graduation Year: 

Employment Info

Sr. Research Analyst
Google Inc
Nov 2017-Present


Topics in Bayesian Computation for Streaming Data & Structured Sparse Regression

Collections of large volumes of rich and complex data has become ubiquitous in recent years, posing new challenges in methodological and theoretical statistics alike. Today, statisticians are tasked with developing flexible methods capable of adapting to the degree of complexity and noise in increasingly rich data gathered across a variety of disciplines and settings. This has spurred the need for novel multivariate regression techniques that can efficiently capture a wide range of naturally occurring predictor-response relations, identify important predictors and their interactions and do so even when the number of predictors is large but the sample size remains limited. Meanwhile, efficient model fitting tools must evolve quickly to keep pace with the rapidly growing dimension and complexity of data they are applied to. Aided by the tremendous success of modern computing, Bayesian methods have gained tremendous popularity in recent years. These methods provide a natural probabilistic characterization of uncertainty in the parameters and in predictions. In addition, they provide a practical way of encoding model structure that can lead to large gains in statistical estimation and more interpretable results. However, this flexibility is often hindered in applications to modern data which are increasingly high dimensional, both in the number of observations $n$ and the number of predictors $p$. Here, computational complexity and the curse of dimensionality typically render posterior computation inefficient. In particular, Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods which remain the workhorse for Bayesian computation (owing to their generality and asymptotic accuracy guarantee), typically suffer data processing and computational bottlenecks as a consequence of (i) the need to hold the entire dataset (or available sufficient statistics) in memory at once; and (ii) having to evaluate of the (often expensive to compute) data likelihood at each sampling iteration. This thesis divides into two parts. The first part concerns itself with developing efficient MCMC methods for posterior computation in the high dimensional {\em large-n large-p} setting. In particular, we develop an efficient and widely applicable approximate inference algorithm that extends MCMC to the online data setting, and separately propose a novel stochastic search sampling scheme for variable selection in high dimensional predictor settings. The second part of this thesis develops novel methods for structured sparsity in the high-dimensional {\em large-p small-n} regression setting. Here, statistical methods should scale well with the predictor dimension and be able to efficiently identify low dimensional structure so as to facilitate optimal statistical estimation in the presence of limited data. Importantly, these methods must be flexible to accommodate potentially complex relationships between the response and its associated explanatory variables. The first work proposes a nonparametric additive Gaussian process model to learn predictor-response relations that may be highly nonlinear and include numerous lower order interaction effects, possibly in different parts of the predictor space. A second work proposes a novel class of Bayesian shrinkage priors for multivariate regression with a tensor valued predictor. Dimension reduction is achieved using a low-rank additive decomposition for the latter, enabling a highly flexible and rich structure within which excellent cell-estimation and region selection may be obtained through state-of-the-art shrinkage methods. In addition, the methods developed in these works come with strong theoretical guarantees.