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Guest blog by John Alexander Wood, MSc in Artificial Intelligence at Aberdeen University

During the summer I had a placement with Intelligent Plant. Their work involves the industrial internet of things, providing tools and techniques for the analysis of plant and machinery. The main insight that I had during my project, though not unique, was that the information they are dealing with is very similar to letters or words. This then leads to the thinking, if we treat all this industrial data like letters, words, paragraphs and documents, then we can apply a large and proven set of tools that already exist, namely Natural Language Processing. These techniques are what Facebook might use for fake news detection, or a marketing company may use to find out what the public are saying about a client on Twitter. My project revolved around using NLP with Alarm and Event data.

What do companies gain from having an MSc student?

What benefits do companies gain from working with students from The Data Lab? Well I would hope that they get a high quality candidate, who is up to date with the latest knowledge on data science. But more importantly, this person will also bring a new perspective and perhaps some new ideas. Finally don’t underestimate the value for money a student can bring. Or to put it another way, what would be the cost if the summer project was outsourced?

I’ve gained so much from my experience

From the students point of view what do they gain from a summer placement? Being embedded alongside hard working and clever people in the same field as you, is like programming by osmosis. It is very difficult to understate just how much you will learn this way. Secondly, working for a company helps to expose you to the real world and the challenges that will bring in the future. Even if these are as simple as having to deal with two bosses at once, in the form of the person you report to at work and your academic supervisor. That said, for the record both of mine were excellent.

I am deeply indebted and grateful to the following organisations. Firstly to The Data Lab for their support over this last year, it has made a tremendous difference to my life. Secondly to the company that I interned with, Intelligent Plant, for their time and energy but more importantly their enthusiasm and excitement for data science. Finally to the University of Aberdeen, for the excellent Artificial Intelligence masters they have run over the past year, for recommending me for a scholarship and for offering me the opportunity to undertake a PhD starting in the autumn.

Giving people the tools to understand their world, just a little better

To conclude, recently my daughter came home from nursery all excited. She and the other children had been counting tadpoles and frogs. Together with the help of the nursery nurses they had drawn a bar chart and coloured it in. She had been given the tools to help her understand her world just a little bit better. I can’t help but see the parallels between my daughter and my summer placement via The Data Lab with Intelligent Plant. Ultimately the opportunity we have in front of ourselves as data scientists is clear. To give people the tools to help them understand their world, just a little bit better.

 

Would you like access to a data scientist to tackle a real life business problem in your company?

If you are a company interested in hosting an MSc placement this summer, you can find more information on the MBN website. Due to restrictions imposed to fight Covid-19, we are now looking for placements that can be carried out by our students remotely.

Read a blog by a host company DataPA who really benefited from their student placement: MSc machine learning placement produces fantastic results with automatic forecasting

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