Last summer, I was utterly starstruck in the geekiest way possible. My peers and I in the Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School (DS3) had chosen to use Airbnb data for our final project. After we made our presentation to a packed room, a couple of data scientists working at Airbnb reached out to us to express interest in our paper, and we then presented our project to them in private. At the time, I just remember thinking to myself, “This is so cool!”
This Friday, April 21st, is the deadline for this summer’s version of DS3. So, if what you read here sounds interesting and you want to be a part of DS3, there’s no time to waste. Apply today!
DS3 is the brainchild of a handful of awesome Microsoft researchers – Jake Hofman, Justin Rao, and Sharad Goel – who wanted to inspire students and help create a more diverse and accessible field of data science. The program has two parts. First, you learn the equivalent of one semester of data science compressed into four weeks. It’s intense. In the mornings – which usually start around 10AM – renowned senior Microsoft researchers will privately teach you and seven other students cutting edge data science and statistics. No specific background is required, and they always make sure everyone understands what is going on. In the afternoon, you are left to complete a mini data science project, to put into practice the lessons you’re learning.
The second part of DS3 is the final project, which is the focus of the final four weeks. You form a team and work on your project for the entire day. You use real-world datasets to come up with an entirely original research paper. Each team typically has two mentors, and those mentors are there for the entire process: brainstorming research ideas, coding, writing the actual paper, learning how to cite properly and preparing for your presentation. My team’s research paper was accepted into conferences at MIT and the ACM’s Tapia Conference for Diversity in Computer Science, and that could not have happened without the amazing guidance of our mentors. I can’t stress how unbelievably awesome it is to have renowned researchers dedicate multiple weeks to help you write your first-ever research paper. They become your teachers, advisors, recommenders and debuggers. One of them has become an almost parental figure to me, and still advises me on my college classes to this day.
I highly encourage anyone who thinks data science, big data, and artificial intelligence are interesting — you should apply to DS3! You don’t need to be a genius; you just need to be curious and willing to work hard. You will be surprised at how helpful and humble everyone at Microsoft is. To be honest, I didn’t like statistics at all and wasn’t the best at math. But in DS3, you come to realize that quantitative skills are only part of the equation, and that good data scientists must also be creative, reflective and inquisitive. I guarantee you no matter what background you have, DS3 will give you a lifetime of skills, inspiration, friends, and confidence. I’m now working as a Civic Tech Fellow on Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Innovation team – and I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t taken the leap of faith to spend a summer in DS3.
Data science is at a historic moment because it has already begun to change the way businesses and organizations work. It is applicable to so many more fields than you think. Like how the camera gave computers sight, data science is giving computers millions of new senses to interpret the world. There is a reason Harvard Business Review published an article proclaiming “Data Science: the Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.” I feel like I am part of something big, I have new superpowers with which to change the world, and it is all very exciting.
The deadline to apply to the Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School (DS3) is this Friday, April 21st. Any interested college student can learn more and apply here.