Blog: Looking back on DSI Fellowship, 2018


This last semester I had the privilege of serving as a Data Science Initiative (DSI) Fellow for its inaugural semester of the program. Within this program groups of undergraduates work with outside companies on different questions of interests leveraging their course work to solve real world problems. I enjoyed advising with both groups, and they taught me things along the way. Below, I’ve just kinda sketched out some thoughts I had after the completion, and they don’t focus on the tools the students used or their projects, but rather some “higher”-level thoughts.

Group Projects in R

When I was in undergrad I took a class called “Reproducible and Collaborative Data Science” were we learned good reproduciblity practices while working on a large group project. It was in python and we learned basically everything in it’s most “rare” for - including git and version control. For data scientists, who will be using both R and python, RStudio’s GUI makes makes git (and github interaction in groups) much easier (and definitely appeared easier to pick up general ideas of version control much faster than when I first learned).

Graphics (word-clouds 😱)

I tend to consider myself knowledgable in graphics, having taught a class on statistical graphics and having read a handful of texts on the subject, but it was nice to see I can still learn. During 1 of the projects, a faculty advisor suggested the clients like word-clouds (a graphic that I used to distain since it doesn’t really present the true data (values) well), and I was very expressive in my distain. But, as the project continued (and continued to use word-clouds), I really got to appreciate the value of the graphic in communicating the information the team actually wanted to express.


Both groups presented quiet a bit to their external collaborators / clients as well as to myself and their faculty advisors. I really wished there were more high quality documents that focused on how undergrad statistic students should

  • how to make good slide decks
  • consistent and readable graphics
  • clean and clear posters,

and providing better materials for these might end up becoming a project of mine.

General Personal Growth

These group projects let me reflect on how hard it is to be an advisor (sorry Max). Specifically when to show students how to do something, question their decisions and provide critical feedback and stand back and let them learn on their own. Interestingly, in reflection this reminds me of leadership training classes that taught Situational Leadership. Additionally, it really does seem like to be an advisor you need to help find out what communication is needed, how frequently that should be (which are also quiet difficult). And finally, these projects also gave me to opportunity to deal with being just “one of many” advisors - which isn’t alway easier figuring out when you should step back and let others advise and have the last say.