Institute News

UCLA Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics Teams Up With USC Shoah Foundation

Four applied mathematics undergraduate students are dedicating their summer to a major research project for the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education.

They are participating in the 2013 Research in Industrial Projects (RIPS) program at the UCLA Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM). Each summer, undergraduate students from around the world convene at UCLA for the program. They are placed in small groups, and each group must find a solution to an applied mathematics problem within the sponsor organization they are assigned. This is the fourth year the USC Shoah Foundation has participated in RIPS.

Amanda Bower (University of Michigan, Dearborn), Alice Dilanchian (UC Berkeley), Mihaela Turcu (Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany) and Feng Zhu (Princeton University) have been teamed up to work with the USC Shoah Foundation for the 9-week progam. Their project is titled “Improving Search Quality Through Log Analysis.”

The group notes that the Institute’s Visual History Archive (VHA) , offers visitors a “quick search” function that returns thousands of results for given search terms. However, it does not rank those results, which include 105,000 hours of testimonies, 60,000 keywords and 1.2 million names, by relevance. They point out that inexperienced or first-time visitors may consequently find the VHA overwhelming and have difficulty locating the testimonies that are most useful to them.

In order to improve the quick search function, the group is analyzing VHA user activity data to determine the relationships between search queries and viewed testimonies. The group will then design different algorithms to rank search results and evaluate their effectiveness in displaying the most relevant testimonies.

“The search quality in the system can be greatly improved using more advanced relevance ranking algorithms,” the group proposes. “Given that approximately seventy-five percent of users have used quick search, this will likely lead to a significant improvement in user experience.”

Previous USC Shoah Foundation RIPS teams have added geographic data visualizations to testimonies, improved keyword search functions in different languages, and created relationship maps for testimony segments to improve the VHA’s indexing system.

The group will present its findings to guest faculty and USC Shoah Foundation staff at the end of August.