The very first Machine Learning Hackathon at the Physics Department of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez took place on 24-26 April, 2019, organized by IRIS-HEP Training, Education and Outreach coordinator (and UPRM physics professor) Sudhir Malik.
Machine learning is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. It is a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. While many machine learning algorithms have been around for a long time, the ability to automatically apply complex mathematical calculations to big data repeatedly and ever faster is a recent development. Learning these skill would make it possible to quickly and automatically produce models that can analyze bigger, more complex data and deliver faster, more accurate results. The potential for using ML techniques encompasses all STEM fields. Learning ML tools early on can be very useful in a number of career paths and thus there is a great demand for opportunities such as this hackathon.
Diyaselis Delgado López, a UPRM physics undergraduate student who participated, was surprised and excited about what she learned: “Thanks to this experience, I definitely want to investigate further and use these techniques in everything I can.” Ricardo González, another physics undergrad at UPRM, also participated in the Hackathon. He felt that attending the Hackathon was extremely valuable “because it opened my eyes to a powerful tool that physicists have within our reach. Soon I will become a graduate student, and I am now looking for ways to incorporate what I have learned here.”
The hackathon agenda included talks by UPRM researchers and faculty from the Mathematics, Physics and CS&E departments. Topics included covered Statistics, ML techniques and use cases from research activities at UPRM. Dr. Sergei Gleyzer, a physicist from University of Florida and convener of ML group at the CMS Experiment at CERN, also participated as a lecturer and facilitator. The participants were students from UPRM who were given challenging problem to solve during Hackathon.