Skip to content
Title: Emergence of Segmentation with Minimalistic White-Box Transformers
Speaker: Yaodong Yu, PhD Student, EECS Department, University of California, Berkeley
Date: Sep 7, 2023

Time: 4pm
Venue: HKU IDS Office, P307, Graduate House (Registration required)


Transformer-like models for vision tasks have recently proven effective for a wide range of downstream applications such as segmentation and detection. Previous works have shown that segmentation properties emerge in vision transformers (ViTs) trained using self-supervised methods such as DINO, but not in those trained on supervised classification tasks. In this study, we probe whether segmentation emerges in transformer-based models solely as a result of intricate self-supervised learning mechanisms, or if the same emergence can be achieved under much broader conditions through proper design of the model architecture. Through extensive experimental results, we demonstrate that when employing a white-box transformer-like architecture known as CRATE, whose design explicitly models and pursues low-dimensional structures in the data distribution, segmentation properties, at both the whole and parts levels, already emerge with a minimalistic supervised training recipe. Layer-wise finer-grained analysis reveals that the emergent properties strongly corroborate the designed mathematical functions of the white-box network. Our results suggest a path to design white-box foundation models that are simultaneously highly performant and mathematically fully interpretable. Code is at

This is a joint work with Tianzhe Chu, Shengbang Tong, Ziyang Wu, Druv Pai, Sam Buchanan, and Yi Ma. 


Yaodong Yu
PhD Student @ EECS Department, University of California, Berkeley

Yaodong Yu is a PhD student in the EECS department at UC Berkeley advised by Michael I. Jordan and Yi Ma. He obtained his B.S. from the Department of Mathematics at Nanjing University, and his M.S. from the Department of Computer Science, University of Virginia.

His research interests include topics in machine learning and optimization. His goal is to make machine learning systems more robust.

For information, please contact: