Like interning with Avengers
Recently, MDAP kicked off its internship program with four Master of Data Science students jumping onto real-world research problems with our research data specialist and data steward team. Interns Maria, Rohit, Pratibha and Saket slotted seamlessly into the team, bringing great intellectual value to our projects, and a good dose of fun, as our title suggests. Here, the intern team kindly share their reflections with us.
During my internship at MDAP I worked on various projects, including one with the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences.
The Australian dairy industry is entering an era of ‘precision informatics’, seeking to harness new technologies such as automatic milking systems that capture enormous amounts of data on individual animal performance and environmental conditions. But there are few data processing and analysis capabilities available to farmers to help identify key patterns and enable decision-making.
I worked with data gathered from the University of Melbourne Dookie Robotic Dairy to help improve the management of heat stress impacts on dairy cows in terms of quality and quantity of the milk produced and identified cows most prone to be affected. This helps the dairy research team to come up with an equitable and efficient feed allocation to the herd.
From my work in MDAP, I learned that a good data scientist spends a lot of time crunching raw data before machine learning models can be applied to gain meaningful insights. Along with understanding the data well, it is essential to acquire domain knowledge for better analysis.
I am captivated by the dedication the MDAP team shows to make small yet extremely positive impacts in society by doing what they are the best at. I really enjoyed working with such a supportive team and with my fellow interns who started the journey with me.
At MDAP, I learned many technical data science skills and soft skills. Now I look forward to taking a step ahead in my career by securing a job in data science upon completion of my masters later in 2020.
At MDAP, I worked on many projects including ‘analysing 6 billion social media posts to gain insights on gendered hate speech and domestic violence’, ‘developing a natural language processing pipeline to automatically extract information from legal judgements’, and ‘building an end-to-end web application’.
My approach to all the projects was similar. I communicated regularly with my supervisors to understand their ideas and take guidance during project planning and implementation. Each project required an understanding of a different set of tools, which was challenging at times.
All the projects I worked on offered unique opportunities to make new discoveries. For example, it was fascinating to uncover—while performing network analysis on geolocated tweets — the patterns among Twitter hashtags in response to real-time events. It was also great to test out various geolocation tools for text and benchmarking them.
I have learned so much during the internship, being enlightened on every day. My key takeaway from this experience is the enhancement of my data science skill set across both technical and soft skills. For example, the natural language processing skills I developed will be particularly valuable for my future work.
I also learnt to maintain a ‘beginner’s mindset’; most real-world problems are not structured, so curiosity, communication and collaborative skills are crucial to tackling them. I would also like to acknowledge and compliment how the whole MDAP team always made time to discuss questions and challenges.
Up until now, I have accomplished a lot, made a lot of mistakes and learnt from them, but I still have a long path ahead. My goals for this year are to complete my degree and secure employment in the data science field to further develop my skills and experience.
My first project at MDAP was to optimise a bioinformatics program to ensure effective and swift decision-making. First, I helped to identify the most time-consuming areas in the program — an alignment tool that was painstakingly slow and needed to be more speedy without sacrificing the quality of outputs.
Instead of running the entire program, I helped to subdivide the program into multiple sections and process each in parallel. This approach significantly improved the run-time of the program by over 80 percent.
My experience at MDAP was both exciting and challenging. I learned to collaborate with researchers which greatly increased my communication and stakeholder management skills.
I also received extensive mentoring and coaching from the MDAP supervisory team. They helped me to reflect on my performance and my career path, and encouraged my fellow interns and I to regularly meet and discuss our projects in order to share experiences and overcome roadblocks together.
Data Science is the future for many industries. I will use my experiences and learnings at MDAP to help shape this future.
At MDAP, I was able to face one of the main challenges in data science: bridging the gap between theory and practice. I worked on projects in law, agricultural science and veterinary science domains, with each at a different stage, gaining exposure to the end-to-end research project life cycle.
I applied machine learning models in the law project, test various approaches to modelling data in the agricultural science project, and improved the accuracy in different machine learning models in the veterinary science project.
I had the opportunity to grow under the guidance of talented research data scientists and data stewards. I can perhaps compare my experience to being an intern with the Avengers! This internship was an intensive and expeditious hands-on training on data science. My supervisors were friendly, supportive, knowledgeable and approachable; and my peers were encouraging as we worked through challenges together.
I want to thank my direct supervisor Geordie and everyone in the MDAP supervisory team for their mentorship and guidance. In the first week, Geordie and I discussed a learning and growth path for my internship, and I feel that I have achieved more than I had envisioned from this opportunity.
MDAP will continue to run its internship program all year round, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to have a new group of interns on board already.