by Michael McLaughlin
(reprinted with permission from Brown Alumni Magazine)
You can thank David Blei ’97 for all those personalized suggestions of things to buy that pop up on your screen whenever you’re online. In fact, the easiest way for this Columbia University computer science and statistics professor to explain his field of expertise—“probabilistic topic modeling”—is to talk about Amazon or Netflix or Etsy, the wildly popular website that sells handmade goods and crafts. (Etsy uses a variation of an algorithm that Blei cowrote.)
Amazon and Netflix use advanced formulas related to probabilistic topic modeling on you ...