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Machine Learning:
Algorithms and Applications

Machine Learning: Algorithms and Applications Overview

From robotics, speech recognition, and analytics, to finance and social network analysis, machine learning comprises one of the most useful scientific toolsets of our age. This course provides an overview of the core principles of machine learning using a hands-on, project-based curriculum. There is an intense focus on implementing popular machine learning algorithms to solve real problems using real data.

Who is this course for?

This is designed for people working in any number of data-intensive fields, including consulting, finance, IT, healthcare, and logistics, as well as for recent college graduates and entrepreneurs interested or specializing in those fields.

Considering the data science immersive bootcamp?

Part-Time Alumni can apply the amount of tuition paid for one part-time professional development course towards enrollment in an upcoming bootcamp upon admittance.


Firm knowledge of the Python programming environment.

Basic understanding of vector and matrix algebra (how to add and multiply vectors/matrices), as well as basic understanding of the notion of a mathematical function (e.g., understanding what f(x)=x^2 or f(x) = sin(x) means).

Basic calculus and linear algebra is helpful but not required (e.g., how to take derivatives, what a linear system of equations is, etc.). A quick refresher on these topics will be provided. (Note: Knowledge of statistics is not required for this course.)


Upon completion of the Machine Learning course, students have:

An understanding of the basic principles of machine learning from both an intuitive and practical level.
An intuitive understanding of common feature design principles for image, text, and speech data.
An understanding of how to use popular machine learning and deep learning software packages in Python, as well as know how to implement several popular machine learning algorithms from scratch.
Extensive experience applying machine learning algorithms to real data sets.
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Course Structure and Syllabus

Week 1


Get an overview of machine learning and the course, and jump right into first projects.

  • What kinds of things can you build with machine learning tools?
  • How does machine learning work? (The 5-minute elevator pitch edition.)
  • Predictive models, our basic building blocks.
  • Feature design and learning – what makes things distinct?
  • Numerical optimization, the workhorse of machine learning.
  • Getting our hands dirty with Python.

Week 2

Learning to Predict the Future

Go over regression tasks with applications in forecasting, finance, and basic science.

  • Linear regression, the foundation of machine learning.
  • Using calculus to build useful algorithms (calculus defined optimality and solving the least squares problem).
  • Knowledge-driven feature design for regression.
  • Nonlinear regression and regularization.
  • Time series extensions.

Week 3

Teaching a Computer to Distinguish Differences

Learn classification tasks with applications for object detection, speech recognition, finance, and analytics.

  • Perceptron/logistic regression/Support Vector Machines.
  • A brief primer on (stochastic) gradient descent.
  • Multiclass classification.
  • Knowledge-driven feature design for classification with examples from computer vision (object/face detection and recognition), text mining, and speech recognition.

Week 4

Learning and Selecting Proper Features

A review of deep learning and common Python libraries for image and natural language processing applications.

  • Function approximation and bases of features.
  • Feed-forward neural networks, deep learning, and kernels.
  • Cross-validation for feature learning and selection.
  • Using deep learning libraries in Python.

Week 5 & 6

Making Sense of Big Data

Learn applications in text mining, consumer/product segmentation, recommender systems, image processing, and brain science.

  • Tools for enormous datasets: K-means clustering and extensions.
  • Tools for high dimensional data: principal component analysis and random projections.
  • Matrix factorization models and their many applications.
  • Fixed and learned factorizations, including the sparse coding model for redundancy reduction.
  • A closer look at the fundamental optimization algorithms of machine learning.


Students should come to class with a laptop with Python installed. Using an Integrated Development Environment for Python (like PyCharm or Eclipse) is highly recommended for debugging purposes.

We will use publicly available machine learning libraries written for Python including:

  • Scikit-learn general purpose machine learning library
  • Caffe deep learning Python library
  • The UCI machine learning repository
  • Kaggle, a data science competition website


Building a Face Detection System

When using a smartphone to take pictures of other people, built-in face detection algorithms locate faces in the camera viewfinder (usually putting little squares around each one), so the camera knows where to focus the image. We will explore how the core piece of this machine learning algorithm works, and students will get hands-on experience completing a prototype face detection system.

Financial Time Series

How can we intelligently guess the price of a stock or commodity in the near future? Students design a simple financial times series model using real data taken from the Federal Reserve.

Exploring Deep Learning Software

Deep learning, or neural networks, are popular because they can scale with enormous datasets. Students get hands-on experience using a popular software package to perform a common deep learning task called general object detection.

Sentiment Analysis on Text Data

Gauging the general population’s feelings about a product, company, or politician (referred to as 'sentiment analysis') is getting easier thanks to massive public datasets generated by social media sites like Twitter. Students practice performing sentiment analysis on real data to understand how it’s done.

Handwritten Digit Recognition

Handwritten digit recognition is a classic machine learning problem with popular solutions implemented in ATMs, mobile banking apps (to automatically read checks), and postal services (to automatically sort mail). Students implement a multi-class classification scheme to perform digit recognition using real-world datasets.

Movie Recommender Systems

Do you ever wonder how large online retailers and video providers recommend content based on a person's purchasing and/or viewing history? Students deploy a common recommender system model to recommend movies.

Preventative Medicine and Healthcare Logistics

Can we predict who needs preventative care that could drastically improve – if not save – their lives? Students mine a real-world dataset to determine individuals who most likely require preventative healthcare in order to avert catastrophic medical costs and consequences.