PhD Thesis Defense - Niao He

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TITLE: Saddle Point Techniques in Convex Composite and Error-in-Measurement Optimization


This dissertation aims to develop efficient algorithms with improved scalability and stability properties for large-scale optimization and optimization under uncertainty, and to bridge some of the gaps between modern optimization theories and recent applications emerging in the Big Data environment. To this end, the dissertation is dedicated to two important subjects -- i) Large-scale Convex Composite Optimization and ii) Error-in-Measurement Optimization. In spite of the different natures of these two topics, the common denominator, to be presented, lies in their accommodation for systematic use of saddle point techniques for mathematical modeling and numerical processing. The main body can be split into three parts.

 In the first part, we consider a broad class of variational inequalities with composite structures, allowing to cover the saddle point/variational analogies of the classical convex composite minimization (i.e. summation of a smooth convex function and a simple nonsmooth convex function). We develop novel composite versions of the state-of-the-art Mirror Descent and Mirror Prox algorithms aimed at solving such type of problems. We demonstrate that the algorithms inherit the favorable efficiency estimate of their prototypes when solving structured variational inequalities. Moreover, we develop several variants of the composite Mirror Prox algorithm along with their corresponding complexity bounds, allowing the algorithm to handle the case of imprecise prox mapping as well as the case when the operator is represented by an unbiased stochastic oracle.

 In the second part, we investigate four general types of large-scale convex composite optimization problems, including (a) multi-term composite minimization, (b) linearly constrained composite minimization, (c) norm-regularized nonsmooth minimization, and (d) maximum likelihood Poisson imaging. We demonstrate that the composite Mirror Prox, when integrated with saddle point techniques and other algorithmic tools, can solve all these optimization problems with the best known so far rates of convergences. Our main related contributions are as follows. Firstly, regards to problems of type (a), we develop an optimal algorithm by integrating the composite Mirror Prox with a saddle point reformulation based on exact penalty. Secondly, regards to problems of type (b), we develop a novel algorithm reducing the problem to solving a ``small series'' of saddle point subproblems and achieving an optimal, up to log factors, complexity bound. Thirdly, regards to problems of type (c), we develop a Semi-Proximal Mirror-Prox algorithm by leveraging the saddle point representation and linear minimization over problems' domain and attain optimality both in the numbers of calls to the first order oracle representing the objective and calls to the linear minimization oracle representing problem's domain. Lastly, regards to problem (d), we show that the composite Mirror Prox when applied to the saddle point reformulation circumvents the difficulty with non-Lipschitz continuity of the objective and exhibits better convergence rate than the typical rate for nonsmooth optimization. We conduct extensive numerical experiments and illustrate the practical potential of our algorithms in a wide spectrum of applications in machine learning and image processing.

 In the third part, we examine error-in-measurement optimization, referring to decision-making problems with data subject to measurement errors; such problems arise naturally in a number of important applications, such as privacy learning, signal processing, and portfolio selection. Due to the postulated observation scheme and specific structure of the problem, straightforward application of standard stochastic optimization techniques such as Stochastic Approximation (SA) and Sample Average Approximation (SAA) are out of question. Our goal is to develop computationally efficient and, hopefully, not too conservative data-driven techniques applicable to a broad scope of problems and allowing for theoretical performance guarantees. We present two such approaches -- one depending on a fully algorithmic calculus of saddle point representations of convex-concave functions and the other depending on a general approximation scheme of convex stochastic programming. Both approaches allow us to convert the problem of interests to a form amenable for SA or SAA. The latter developments are primarily focused on two important applications -- affine signal processing and indirect support vector machines.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Anita Race
  • Created: 10/16/2015
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 04/13/2017


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