ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award goes to newest EE Faculty

incoming EE professor Chelsea Finn
May 2019

Congratulations to incoming EE and CS professor Chelsea Finn. She was awarded the 2019 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award for her dissertation, "Learning to Learn with Gradients." In her thesis, Finn introduced algorithms for meta-learning that enable deep networks to solve new tasks from small datasets, and demonstrated how her algorithms can be applied in areas including computer vision, reinforcement learning and robotics.

Deep learning has transformed the artificial intelligence field and has led to significant advances in areas including speech recognition, computer vision and robotics. However, deep learning methods require large datasets, which aren't readily available in areas such as medical imaging and robotics.

Meta-learning is a recent innovation that holds promise to allow machines to learn with smaller datasets. Meta-learning algorithms "learn to learn" by using past data to learn how to adapt quickly to new tasks. However, much of the initial work in meta-learning focused on designing increasingly complex neural network architectures. In her dissertation, Finn introduced a class of methods called model-agnostic meta-learning (MAML) methods, which don't require computer scientists to manually design complex architectures. Finn's MAML methods have had tremendous impact on the field and have been widely adopted in reinforcement learning, computer vision and other fields of machine learning.

At a young age, Finn has become one of the most recognized experts in the field of robotic learning. She has developed some of the most effective methods to teach robots skills to control and manipulate objects. In one instance highlighted in her dissertation, she used her MAML methods to teach a robot reaching and placing skills, using raw camera pixels from just a single human demonstration.

Finn is a Research Scientist at Google Brain and a postdoctoral researcher at the Berkeley AI Research Lab (BAIR). In the fall of 2019, she will start a full-time appointment as an Assistant Professor at Stanford University. Finn received her PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley and a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Join us in congratulating Chelsea on this well-deserved award!