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Wrapping Up SGI 2021

After six weeks of intensive research and tutorials on applied geometry, we finally are ready to wrap up SGI 2021 and send our Fellows back to their home institutions. Directing this program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, and it has been a pleasure seeing our students advance as scientists, mathematicians, and supportive community members.

SGI’s success is entirely thanks to a huge team of volunteers whose time and energy made the program possible.

Below, I acknowledge the many colleagues who have participated in the planning, leadership, and day-to-day activities of SGI 2021. The sheer length of this list is an inspiring reflection of the supportive community we enjoy in geometry research.

To start, SGI 2021 was only possible with the support of our generous sponsors, whose donations allowed us to offer a stipend to each SGI Fellow commensurate with a summer internship:

SGI was organized over the previous year with guidance from colleagues at a variety of institutions worldwide. A Steering Committee provided opinions and advice throughout the planning process:

Within MIT, several faculty and staff members contributed substantial effort to make the program a success. My team in the Geometric Data Processing (GDP) Group provided advice and volunteer support, from feedback on how to structure the program to hand-packing 72 boxes to ship to our Fellows and volunteers; GDP admin Mieke Moran organized payments and many other key aspects that made the program run smoothly. Our EECS Department Chair Prof. Asu Ozdaglar, AI+D Chair Prof. Antonio Torralba, and CSAIL Director Prof. Daniela Rus advocated for the program and provided support and encouragement as SGI obtained final approval within the MIT administration. CSAIL Assistant Director Carmen Finn provided critical last-minute help to make sure our Fellows were paid on time. Prof. Frédo Durand provided much-needed advice—and allowed me to vent—at several junctures.

SGI 2021 received far more applications than anticipated, and our final cadre of 34 Fellows and 29 additional tutorial week participants was painfully difficult to select. Our admissions committee carefully read all the applications:

The first week of SGI centered around five days of tutorials to get our Fellows up to speed on geometry processing research. Each tutorial day was organized by a different volunteer, who took charge of the content for the entire day and generated valuable course materials we can reuse in the future:

  • Day 1: Dr. Oded Stein (MIT), basic techniques in geometry processing
  • Day 2: Hseuh-Ti (Derek) Liu (University of Toronto) and Jiayi Eris Zhang (University of Toronto and Stanford), shape deformation
  • Day 3: Silvia Sellán (University of Toronto), shape representations
  • Day 4: Michal Edelstein (Technion) and Abhishek Sharma (École Polytechnique), shape correspondence
  • Day 5: Prof. Amir Vaxman (Utrecht University), directional fields

The remaining five weeks of SGI included a host of 1-3 week research projects, each involving experienced mentors working closely with SGI Fellow. Our full list of projects and project mentors is as follows:

  • Dr. Itzik Ben-Shabat: Self-supervised normal estimation using shape implicit neural representation (August 16-August 27)
  • Prof. Mikhail Bessmeltsev and Prof. Ed Chien: Singularity-Free Frame Field Design for Line Drawing Vectorization (July 26-August 6)
  • Dr. Tolga Birdal and Prof. Nina Miolane: Uncertainty Aware 3D Multi-Way Matching via Soft Functional Maps (July 26-August 6)
  • Prof. David Bommes and Dr. Pierre-Alexandre Beaufort: Quadrilateral and hexahedral mesh optimization with locally injective maps (July 26-August 6)
  • Prof. Marcel Campen: Improved 2D Higher-Order Meshing (July 26-July 30)
  • Prof. Keenan Crane: Surface Parameterization via Intrinsic Triangulations (August 9-August 27)
  • Dr. Matheus Gadelha: Learning Classifiers of Parametric Implicit Functions (August 16-August 27)
  • Prof. Lin Gao and Jie Yang: Unsupervised partial symmetry detection for 3D models with geometric deep learning (August 16-August 27)
  • Christian Hafner and Prof. Bernd Bickel: Joints for Elastic Strips (August 9-August 13)
  • Yijiang Huang and Prof. Caitlin Mueller: Design optimization via shape morphing (August 16-August 27)
  • Dr. Xiangru Huang: Moving Object Detection from consecutive LiDAR Point Clouds (August 23-August 27)
  • Prof. Michael Kazhdan: Multigrid on meshes (July 26-July 30)
  • Prof. Paul Kry and Alexander Mercier-Aubin: Incompressible flow on meshes (July 26-August 6)
  • Prof. Kathryn Leonard: 2D shape complexity (July 26-July 30)
  • Prof. David Levin: Optimal Interlocking Parts via Implicit Shape Optimizations (July 26-August 6)
  • Angran Li, Kuanren Qian, and Prof. Yongjie Jessica Zhang: Geometric Modeling for Isogeometric Analysis with Engineering Applications (August 2-August 6)
  • David Palmer: Bayesian Rotation Synchronization (August 2-August 13); Planar-faced and other specialized hexahedral meshes (August 16-August 27)
  • Prof. Jorg Peters (The beauty of) Semi-structured splines (August 9-August 13)
  • Alison Pouplin and Dimitris Kalatzis: Learning projection of hierarchical data with a variational auto-encoder onto the Klein disk (July 26-August 6)
  • Prof. Leonardo Sacht: Robust computation of the Hausdorff distance between triangle meshes (August 9-August 20)
  • Prof. Yusuf Sahillioglu: Cut optimization for parameterization (August 2-August 13)
  • Josua Sassen and Prof. Martin Rumpf: Mesh simplification driven by shell elasticity (August 9-August 20)
  • Dr. Nicholas Sharp, Prof. Etienne Vouga, Josh Vekhter: Nonmanifold Periodic Minimal Surfaces (August 9-August 27)
  • Dr. Tal Shnitzer-Dery: Self-similarity loss for shape descriptor learning in correspondence problems (August 9-August 13)
  • Dr. Ankita Shukla and Prof. Pavan Turaga: Role of orthogonality in deep representation learning for eco-conservation applications (August 9-August 13)
  • Prof. Noah Snavely: Reconstructing the Moon and Earth in 3D from the World’s Photos (August 9-August 13)
  • Prof. Justin Solomon: Anisotropic Schrödinger Bridges (August 16-August 27)
  • Prof. Marco Tarini: Better Volume-encoded parametrizations (August 2-August 13)
  • Prof. Amir Vaxman: High-order directional field design (July 26-August 6)
  • Prof. Etienne Vouga: Differentiable Remeshing (July 26-August 6)
  • Dr. Stephanie Wang: Discrete Laplacian, area functional, and minimal surfaces (August 16-August 20)
  • Paul Zhang: Classifying hexahedral mesh singular vertices (July 26-August 6); Subdivision Surface Mesh Fitting (August 16-August 27)

An intrepid team of TAs helped our participants learn new topics, refined the tutorial activities, and supported the research projects:

Each week of SGI, we had multiple guest speakers drop by to share their research and experiences, and to give advice to the SGI Fellows:

  • Prof. Katia Bertoldi, Harvard: Multistable inflatable origami from deployable structures to robots
  • Prof. Michael Bronstein, Twitter/Imperial College London: Geometric Deep Learning: the Erlangen Programme of ML
  • Prof. Albert Chern, UCSD: Gauge Theory for Vector Field Design
  • Prof. Bruce Fischl, Harvard/MGH: Geometry and the Human Brain
  • Dr. Fernando de Goes, Pixar: Geometry Processing at Pixar
  • Prof. Rana Hanocka, University of Chicago: Deep Learning on Meshes
  • Prof. Alexandra Ion, Carnegie-Mellon University: Interactive Structures – Materials that can move, walk, compute
  • Prof. Chenfanfu Jiang, UCLA: Developments in smooth optimization contact
  • Prof. Theodore Kim, Yale University: Anti-Racist Graphics Research
  • Prof. Yaron Lipman, Weizmann Institute: Implicit Neural Representations
  • Prof. Mina Konaković Luković, MIT: Transforming Design and Fabrication with Computational Discovery
  • Prof. Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, Harvard: Folding and cutting paper: art and science
  • Prof. Caitlin Mueller, MIT: Geometry of High-Performance Architecture
  • Prof. Matthias Niessner, TU Munich: Learning to Reconstruct 3D Scenes
  • Íñigo Quílez: Intro to SDFs and Examples
  • Dr. Elissa Ross, Metafold: Periodic geometry: from art to math and back again
  • Dr. Ryan Schmidt, Epic Games and Gradientspace: Geometry Processing in Practice
  • Prof. Tamar Shinar, UC Riverside: Partitioned solid-fluid coupling
  • Prof. Emily Whiting, Boston University: Mechanics-Based Design for Computational Fabrication

Last but not least, incoming MIT PhD student Leticia Mattos Da Silva organized a talk and panel discussion on the graduate school application process, including a Q&A with Silvia Sellán, Jiayi Eris Zhang, and Oded Stein.

The cast of thousands above is a testament to the dedication of the geometry research community to developing a diverse, energetic community of young researchers.

SGI 2021 comes to a close as quietly as it began, as our Fellows and mentors close one final Zoom call and return to their lives scattered over the globe. In the months and years to come, we look forward to keeping in touch as our Fellows become colleagues, collaborators, and leaders of future generations of researchers.

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Welcome to SGI 2021

Welcome to the official blog of the Summer Geometry Institute 2021, to be held July 19 to August 28, 2021. 🎉🎉🎉 I am writing this initial post to introduce our program and to share a few of our plans for this summer.

First, a quick introduction. I’m Justin Solomon, an associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at MIT and organizer of SGI 2021. I lead the MIT Geometric Data Processing group, which studies problems at the intersection of geometry, large-scale optimization, and applications in areas like graphics and machine learning.

SGI is the result of discussions among a worldwide network of geometry processing researchers, which started during the 2020 Symposium on Geometry Processing (SGP)—which, like many conferences in 2020, was held online for the first time. While we were sad not to see each other in person at a conference center in Utrecht, the online format format actually allowed SGP to reach a broader and more geographically diverse audience than ever before. This helped us realize that we should be creating similar opportunities for students and early-stage researchers to enter geometry processing research, even if they do not opportunities to try this discipline at their home institutions. This led us to design SGI, a summer research program designed to introduce a broad pool of students to geometry processing research through immersive interaction with top researchers in the discipline.

SGI aims to accomplish the following objectives:

  • spark collaboration among students and researchers in geometry processing,
  • launch inter-university research projects in geometry processing involving team members across broad levels of seniority (undergraduate, graduate, faculty, industrial researcher),
  • introduce students to geometry processing research and development, and
  • diversify the “pipeline” of students entering geometry processing research, in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic background, and home institution.

In addition to its research goals, SGI aims to address a number of challenges and inequities in the geometry processing discipline. Not all universities host faculty whose work touches on this emerging discipline, reducing the cohort of students exposed to this discipline during their undergraduate careers. Moreover, as with many engineering and mathematical fields, geometry processing suffers from serious gender, racial, and socioeconomic imbalance.

So, we set to work to launch SGI by summer 2021. We obtained funding from a number of generous sponsors across industry and academia, listed here. Last January, we posted an application, and by the February 15 deadline we received 627 applications! A careful review process led us to narrow down to a cohort of 35 (paid) SGI Fellows, a brilliant, diverse, and enthusiastic group of early-stage researchers; we also invited a second cohort of students to participate in our initial week of geometry processing tutorials. We were blown away by the enthusiasm and breadth of backgrounds/stories we encountered among our applicants, and our group of Fellows includes participants across many time zones and educational institutions.

Now that SGI is approaching in just a few weeks, we’re digging into the details of organizing this large, decentralized program. We’ve set up a shared Slack environment, confirmed 15 guest speakers, and tested online videochat tools. A team of SGI Fellows led by our student Lucas designed a custom-printed coffee mug to be distributed to the SGI Fellows, mentors, and volunteers. Just last week, my graduate students, postdocs, and I packed 72 packages to be mailed around the world with these mugs, as well as other swag provided by our program sponsors for the Fellows.

SGI kicks off in roughly two weeks, and it will happen in two phases:

  • In the first week, our Fellows (plus additional invited participants) will participate in tutorials led by a team of geometry processing experts, designed to introduce them to the big ideas and scientific techniques encountered in geometry processing research. Each day is led by a different researcher: Oded Stein (MIT), Silvia Sellán (U of Toronto), Hseuh-Ti (Derek) Liu (U of Toronto), Michal Edelstein (Technion), and Amir Vaxman (Utrecht University).
  • In the remaining five weeks, the students participate in short-term research projects. Each project lasts 1-2 weeks and is led by a geometry processing expert. We have over 30 project mentors, who have proposed projects across a variety of applications, from machine learning on triangle meshes to discrete differential geometry to Bayesian inference. Each project is worked on intensively by 4-8 students, who interact day-to-day through digital environments, shared repositories, and so on. Our program will be interspersed with guest speakers from industry and research, as well as panel discussions on graduate school admissions, research techniques, and other topics.

On this blog, the SGI students and team members will share their progress. Our goal is to share technical insights gained by our student as well as progress of the program itself. We invite interested parties to subscribe, so they can receive day-to-day updates as we train the next generation of geometry processing experts!