STAT 157, Spring 19
Table Of Contents
STAT 157, Spring 19
Table Of Contents



The class is held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons 3:30-5:00 pm in 3 LeConte Hall. Both Mu Li and Alex Smola will typically be present during the lectures, unless one of the two of us needs to travel, attend a conference, or otherwise.

We will also be available at the UC Berkeley campus on both days from 12 pm onwards and, traffic and schedule permitting, also earlier. Office hours are notionally Thursdays from 1-3pm. If you want to arrange for meetings outside that time, please let us know beforehand to make sure that we’re around. If it’s really important you can also meet us in the Amazon Palo Alto office on the other days of the week (you will need to make an appointment with our administrator prior to that and our schedules tend to be packed, so Tuesdays and Thursdays are much preferred).


This course is heavy on hands-on experience. Hence the project carries a significant weight. Here’s the overall breakdown of the grades:

Component Weight
Homework 30%
Midterm 20%
Project 50%


There are weekly assignments. We strongly discourage you from copying solutions of your fellow students since you’re depriving yourself of the experience of learning how to solve the problems on your own. In particular you won’t learn useful things for the exams and projects this way. Or for that matter, from the course. That said, you should discuss the solutions with others. You will likely benefit from that.

The 9 best out of 10 homeworks count. That is, you can skip one homework or you can simply do them all and we’ll only count the 9 best ones. Beyond that, you can be late once for two days, i.e. you can submit one home work on a Thursday by the end of the class. We will make the homeworks available online the day the previous homework is due, possibly earlier (some finetuning is required since we need to ensure that we’ll cover the content of the homework in the class). The TAs will return the graded homework within 2 weeks of submission.


There’s only one exam - at the midterm. The purpose of this is to ensure that everyone is on track and to give feedback in case you aren’t.

The midterm exam will be held on March 19, 2019. This is an open book exam, i.e. you can bring anything you want, as long as it doesn’t consume electricity. In other words, looking up paper is OK but looking up things online to ‘google’ the solution is not allowed. Likewise, it isn’t cool if you ask your friends online for realtime support for solutions. Hence, paper only.


The project is really the centerpiece of this class. It is a teamwork effort and you must form a team. All the rules are set out to ensure that you get started quickly on the project and that the project is successful. The project contributes the lion’s share to your grades. We will take the number of team members into account in the evaluation (i.e. a great three student project is probably not going to be such an impressive five student project). All team members will receive the same score (it’s too difficult for us to assess fairly who contributed how much based on possibly contradicting statements). So choose wisely who you work with.

  • Team sizes of 3-5 students are OK. Single student projects are not ok. Nor are pairs. In case you cannot find partners, we’ll assign you to a random project by lottery after February 5, 2019. All participants must attend the class.
  • You must register your team and a tentative project title by February 5, 2019. Do it, since you get points for that.
  • An initial presentation of project proposals will be on March 5, 2019. This is a short pitch in front of the entire class. By default we will record the videos and post them online (unless you ask us not to).
  • Project signoff from the TAs is due in the week of April 22-25, 2019. That is, you must meet with the TAs to discuss your project. They will give you some suggestions and likely help you improve the project. It is in your interest to get feedback early and to take advantage of it. Do it, since you get points for that (and your project will be better).
  • The final project presentations are on May 7 and 9, 2019 in lieu of a final exam.
  • You will be expected to provide a report describing the project in the end. It should describe your work in a reproducible manner, i.e. in enough detail that someone competent could take the report and regenerate the results (after some work but no guesswork) reliably.