Department of Computer Science at UH

University of Houston

Department of Computer Science

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy

Roberto Valerio Molina

Will defend his dissertation

Choosing the Right Kernel
A Meta-Learning Approach to Kernel Selection
in Support Vector Machines


In recent years Support Vector Machines (SVM) have gained increasing popularity over other classification algorithms due to their ability to produce a flexible boundary over non-linearly separable datasets while yielding a linear separation. Such an ability is feasible thanks to the kernel trick.

The kernel trick allows SVMs to perform an implicit transformation of the non-linearly separable original input space into a higher dimensional feature space where a linear separation of the dataset can be found. By creating an implicit transformation of the original feature space we gain efficiency in terms of time complexity. However, we lose information since we do not know what the feature space looks like, but we obtain relative positions in the feature space thanks to the kernel function used to perform this transformation. Since different kernel functions yield different transformations of the feature space, there is need for a mechanism that selects the best kernel function for a specific problem.

Several works have focused on generating metrics from the kernel matrix (a pairwise matrix that stores the relative positions of all the pairs of points). Three metrics have been used to extract information from the kernel matrix: Fisher's discriminant, Bregman's divergence and Homoscedasticity analysis, which even when combined together do not provide enough prediction power to perform kernel selection.

By introducing new meta-features, Distance Ratio (capturing inter-class and intra-class distances in the feature space) and Class Similarity (computing inter-class and intra-class similarity in the feature space). We yield substantial improvements in the kernel selection process.


Date: Friday, April 17, 2015
Time: 11:00 AM
Place: HBS 350

Faculty, students, and the general public are invited.
Advisor: Prof. Ricardo Vilalta