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  1. Finding an approximate second-order stationary point (SOSP) is a well-studied and fundamental problem in stochastic nonconvex optimization with many applications in machine learning. However, this problem is poorly understood in the presence of outliers, limiting the use of existing nonconvex algorithms in adversarial settings. In this paper, we study the problem of finding SOSPs in the strong contamination model, where a constant fraction of datapoints are arbitrarily corrupted. We introduce a general framework for efficiently finding an approximate SOSP with dimension-independent accuracy guarantees, using $\widetilde{O}({D^2}/{\epsilon})$ samples where $D$ is the ambient dimension and $\epsilon$ is the fraction of corrupted datapoints. As a concrete application of our framework, we apply it to the problem of low rank matrix sensing, developing efficient and provably robust algorithms that can tolerate corruptions in both the sensing matrices and the measurements. In addition, we establish a Statistical Query lower bound providing evidence that the quadratic dependence on $D$ in the sample complexity is necessary for computationally efficient algorithms. 
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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 2, 2024
  3. We explore the connection between outlier-robust high-dimensional statistics and non-convex optimization in the presence of sparsity constraints, with a focus on the fundamental tasks of robust sparse mean estimation and robust sparse PCA. We develop novel and simple optimization formulations for these problems such that any approximate stationary point of the associated optimization problem yields a near-optimal solution for the underlying robust estimation task. As a corollary, we obtain that any first-order method that efficiently converges to stationarity yields an efficient algorithm for these tasks. The obtained algorithms are simple, practical, and succeed under broader distributional assumptions compared to prior work. 
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  4. We explore the connection between outlier-robust high-dimensional statistics and non-convex optimization in the presence of sparsity constraints, with a focus on the fundamental tasks of robust sparse mean estimation and robust sparse PCA. We develop novel and simple optimization formulations for these problems such that any approximate stationary point of the associated optimization problem yields a near-optimal solution for the underlying robust estimation task. As a corollary, we obtain that any first-order method that efficiently converges to stationarity yields an efficient algorithm for these tasks.1 The obtained algorithms are simple, practical, and succeed under broader distributional assumptions compared to prior work. 
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