Photo: Leonard Papenmeier

In July 2023, a group of WASP PhD students from Lund University, KTH, Chalmers and Uppsala University went on a study trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, in conjunction with the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) 2023. ICML is renowned in the machine learning community, serving as a hub for professionals from various ML domains. The trip commenced with a seminar day with two invited speakers and presentations by the PhD students.

The study trip was organized by Leonard Papenmeier and Carl Hvarfner, WASP PhD students at Lund University.

Leonard and Carl summarize their experiences:

Dual purpose study trip

“Our trip offered a golden opportunity for PhD students affiliated with WASP to connect with leading researchers in their respective fields. Given the scale and influence of ICML, it ensured that every WASP PhD student could immerse themselves in a wealth of relevant research. Notably, conferences like ICML play a vital role in tracking the latest developments in machine learning, vastly surpassing the insights found in traditional journals.

It is worth noting that ICML is not just an academic affair. Over the years, it has garnered substantial sponsorship from industry giants such as Google, Meta, Amazon, as well as financial powerhouses like D.E. Shaw, Two Sigma, Citadel, and tech companies like Lambda and Microsoft, all of whom rely heavily on ML for their operations. As a result, our study trip had a dual purpose: introducing WASP PhD students to influential researchers and shedding light on how ML is applied in the real world, along with exploring potential career opportunities.”

Seminar day for a maximized experience

“To maximize our conference experience, we began the week with a seminar day on Monday. We had the privilege of hosting two notable speakers: Michael McCourt, the former head of engineering at SigOpt (an ML optimization-focused SaaS recently acquired by Intel), and Peter Kurzwelly from AI Sweden.

Michael McCourt, a founding member of SigOpt, shared valuable insights into the journey of launching a deep-tech startup. He shared the intriguing backstory of SigOpt’s inception, the initial vision of its founding team, and the challenges faced by a team primarily composed of researchers as they navigated the business landscape. Michael’s engaging and candid storytelling style allowed him to convey valuable lessons, including the hurdles encountered at SigOpt and the lessons learned from the startup journey.

Peter Kurzwelly, affiliated with AI Sweden, the Swedish national center for applied artificial intelligence, discussed how AI Sweden could facilitate international collaborations for WASP PhD students and bridged the gap between students and the Swedish industry. His talk emphasized the potential for students to contribute to and enhance the interaction between academia and industry.

Following the invited talks, each participant delivered a concise three-minute presentation about their research. This provided a platform for participants to discover peers with shared interests, with the ultimate goal of identifying relevant conference sessions.”

Personal connections and foundation for potential future collaborations

“Throughout the week, participants explored the conference independently, typically self-organizing in smaller groups. On Wednesday, we organized a collective lunch to exchange experiences and insights. As we reconvened on Friday, we reflected on the entire week, the conference itself, and brainstormed ideas for future research endeavors over a joint dinner in the heart of the city.

The morale remained remarkably high throughout our journey, fostering a strong sense of camaraderie within our group. Attendance at all events was nearly perfect, and feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive. Beyond the academic enrichment, this trip nurtured personal connections among participants and laid the foundation for potential collaborations within the WASP program and beyond.

In conclusion, our study trip to ICML 2023 was an enriching journey that transcended academia. It was a remarkable voyage of discovery, networking, and building lasting connections.”

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