University Spotlight: Mount Holyoke College

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We had 150 fellows participate in our Summer 2017 Fellowship Program —  which means that our University Spotlight series is still going strong! Today’s spotlight will feature a fellow from Mt. Holyoke College, a liberal arts college for women located in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Shirley Xu

Shirley is a senior majoring in Statistics and minoring in Data Science. She spent her fellowship in Singapore as an intern at Zumata, a travel technology company.  

What were some of your main responsibilities at Zumata?

"My main responsibilities included:

  • Modifying Python scripts to train de-duplication models for machine learning
  • Researching, running and evaluating different models for de-duplication
  • Analyzing more than 400k records of hotel data using Python, R, and Excel
  • Documenting the de-duplication process in Markdown files

I also worked on an open source Python project named dedupe.io."

 Shirley and the Singapore cohort working hard at Sage Corps Orientation.

Shirley and the Singapore cohort working hard at Sage Corps Orientation.

What is the most valuable lesson/ most valuable skill you learned or strengthened during your internship?

"The internship at Zumata gave me an opportunity to know what it really feels like to work for a technology company as a data analyst; I also gained a better understanding of how to become a skilled data scientist.

I feel the skills I learned at school are insufficient for working on a real-life project like dedupe.io, so I Googled, read Stack Overflow, took online courses, and asked others for help. A real-life industry project is so different from academic projects, in that data is always messier than expected. I always needed to plan more time for every task assigned to me - I encountered many new errors when trying to fix one particular error in the code. I also learned to multitask and to keep good records of what I do so that later I am able to clearly explain my progress to others."

At this time, what are your post-graduation plans?

"After graduation, I plan to enroll in a Master’s program for Data Science/Business Analytics."

Shirley reflects on her fellowship by adding “I was really excited to work with a group of highly skilled engineers and learn data analytics from working on real-life projects this summer.”

We’re excited to see what’s in store for Shirley during her last year at Mt. Holyoke and beyond! We wish Shirley luck in her next endeavors —  we are confident she will succeed in whatever path she chooses.