Aaron Sidford; Faster Algorithms for Computing the Stationary Distribution

CORE Series
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
SAV 264, 4:00PM 
Aaron SidfordStanford University (Management Science and Engineering)

TITLE: Faster Algorithms for Computing the Stationary Distribution

ABSTRACT: Computing the stationary distribution of a Markov Chain is one of the most fundamental problems in optimization. It lies at the heart of numerous computational tasks including computing personalized PageRank vectors, evaluating the utility of policies in Markov decision process, and solving asymmetric diagonally dominant linear systems. Despite the ubiquity of these problems, until recently the fastest known running times for computing the stationary distribution either depended polynomially on the mixing time or desired accuracy or appealed to generic linear system solving machinery, and therefore ran in super-quadratic time.

In this talk I will present recent results showing that the stationary distribution and related quantities can all be computed in almost linear time. I will present new iterative methods for extracting structure from directed graphs and and show how they can be tailored to achieve this new running time. Moreover, I will discuss connections between this work and recent developments in solving Laplacian systems and emerging trends in combining numerical and combinatorial techniques in the design of optimization algorithms.

This talk reflects joint work with Michael B. Cohen (MIT), Jonathan Kelner (MIT), Rasmus Kyng (Harvard), John Peebles (MIT), Richard Peng (Georgia Tech), Anup Rao (Adobe Research), and Adrian Vladu (Boston University).

BIO: Aaron completed his PhD at MIT (CSAIL) advised by Jon Kelner and since then is an Assistant Professor at Stanford (MSE). He works on fast algorithms for various optimization problems. His work received best paper awards at SODA 2014 and FOCS 2014 and a best student paper award at FOCS 2015. In particular he become broadly known in the community for the development of an Interior Point Algorithm that solves LPs in sqrt(rank) many iterations (also improving the total running time compared to previous algorithms). This had been the most prominent open problem in the field of interior point methods since the work of Nesterov and Nemirovski in 1994.