Hi! I'm Varun Babbar, an incoming PhD student in Machine Learning at Duke University. Currently, I'm working as an ML Researcher at JP Morgan, focusing on developing machine learning models that can accelerate software development by providing insights about source code.

I graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2022 with a BA + MEng in Information and Computer Engineering, ranking in the top 5% of my class. During my time at Cambridge, I've collaborated with Umang Bhatt and Adrian Weller on human-aligned uncertainty quantification and risk control, Sean Moran on federated learning for Covid-19 diagnosis, and Rafal Mantiuk on developing visual loss functions for image to image translation models.

Research Interests

My research interests lie broadly in trustworthy AI and human-machine collaboration. I am also excited by applications of learning algorithms in cost sensitive domains such as healthcare and criminal justice. Given constraints and feedback on a model provided by external stakeholders, I want to design algorithms that are maximally reliable / performant under the constraint set.

In an era where a major yardstick of progress in machine learning is performance on standardized benchmarks, it is important to ask whether these models ultimately facilitate robust decision making by humans. High model performance does not always guarantee high reliability. Here are some concerns (that barely scratch the surface of trustworthy ML):

  1. A model can exhibit disparate impact on racial minorities when predicting the probability of recidivism in criminals.
  2. Heavily parameterized models (or very deep decision trees) are not very interpretable. How do we know if the model is using spurious features in input data to diagnose patients?
  3. Is the model sensitive to changes in inputs? Surely if I increase my credit card spending by 5%, my credit score shouldn't change a whole lot?

Random Facts

Here are the cities I've lived in :
New Delhi     Mumbai     Singapore     Mumbai     Cambridge     London     Durham (North Carolina)?

Here are the languages I am fluent in: English, Hindi, French

My non-sporting interests are quite random: Rubiks cubes, chess, and Urdu poetry are the top 3.

I love basketball and squash: I was part of Cambridge's Varsity squash team. We toured a lot in and around Cambridgeshire, playing against county clubs and university teams alike. I don't play basketball regularly, but I watch and follow NBA basketball (i.e. Lakers) quite religiously.