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Concluding DataWhys Summer Internship Program 2020

24 Jul 2020 . Category . Comments #research #education-research #datawhys #data-science #machine-learning #programming #statistics #service #outreach

Our interdisciplinary summer internship program in data science wrapped up yesterday and was a great success!

A major challenge was moving the entire internship online in response to COVID. Fortunately, we started planning for this contingency in March, so we were ready to go online June 1st.

Our approach might be interesting for anyone thinking of running a similar program or moving an internship online.

Perhaps the most important organizational element was the “landing page,” https://intern.olney.ai/. This page contained the all important schedule, which told the interns what they were supposed to be doing at that moment, the faculty member supervising that activity, and the link(s) to do the activity.

In addition, the landing page had a brief overview of all the important coordinations mechanism we were using like:

  • Slack (for questions and general chat)
  • JupyterHub (for doing data science work entirely in the browser)
  • OKpy (for submitting work)
  • Zoom (for f2f-ish meetings)

Every day kicked off with a Zoom overview and ended with a Zoom reflection session. In between, the interns worked on notebooks we provided to learn data science (for the first 5 weeks) and then their own project-specific notebooks (for the second 3 weeks). Interspersed throughout were faculty lunches and invited talks on doing research, giving presentations, and applying to grad school, amongst others.

For the final project, the interns split into two groups. One group worked on recommending movies based on user preferences, and the other worked on predicting serial killer victim counts based on the personal history of the serial killer (e.g. diagnosed mental illness, abused as a child, etc.). Both projects were presented on the final day to the whole group.

It was an honor and a pleasure working with such talented students. A COVID-era “group photo” is below (put together by Ph.D. student Linda Payne). Hopefully we will be face to face next year!

A simulated group photo, COVID-style

The DataWhys Project and internship are supported by the National Science Foundation through Grant R305A190448 for to the University of Memphis.