Machine learning internship at Helsinki, Finland – Mining data at the Arctic

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About the Author: Ajay Ramaseshan, a student of Aalto University School of Science, talks about his internship in machine learning and data mining which helped him choose a career path. 

Even after my third year, I was confused if I had done the right thing by choosing computer science engineering as a career option. With no long-term goals, I started looking for internships in analytics and machine learning so as to add value to my undergraduate degree. After scouting universities for a summer internship, I applied to Helsinki; Chalmers University, Sweden; ETH University, Switzerland; and EPFL University, Switzerland. I emailed the professors in the respective departments of these universities enumerating my academic achievements and my interest to work on analytics and machine learning. I received a positive reply from Prof. Erkki Oja, head of the department of computer and information science at Helsinki University of Technology, Finland, the present Aalto University School of Science. He interviewed me on Skype and asked me few questions related to computer science and data structures and algorithms. A week later, I received a mail regarding my selection and a visa invitation. Raring to go, I packed my bags for my arctic adventure!

I wasn’t much familiar with the university or Finland for that matter, so I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of research work in machine learning that was being undertaken there. The department had pioneered major breakthroughs in machine learning such as Self-Organising Map and Independent Component Analysis. During my internship, I worked on the k-Nearest Neighbourhood (k-NN) algorithm, which is an example of a non-parametric method in machine learning commonly used for classification, missing value imputation etc. I had chosen it because I was callow and k-NN was easy to understand and implement.

My work involved parallelizing the existing brute force algorithm to run on a GPU cluster. To accomplish this, I learnt CUDA, a parallel computing platform that uses a syntax similar to the C programming language. The coding and the visualisation were done on MATLAB. Since I was a novice in MATLAB, it was a steep learning curve. However, I was ably guided and mentored by the senior professors, postdocs, and Ph.D. students of the department. In addition to this, I took some foundation courses in probability, linear algebra, and statistics, which are essential prerequisites for a career in data science. I also learned to draft scientific articles and reports using Latex, a typesetting software. This internship also instilled in me the virtue of being punctual. I had been habitual of the Indian Stretchable Time under which being late was common, but it was considered unprofessional there. I changed my morning routine so that I would always be on time for my job as well as the weekly research group meetings.  

This being my first trip abroad, I travelled extensively during weekends. Unlike India, the buses and trains ran on time too. During my first weekend there, I explored Helsinki. Monuments, parks, churches, and museums – this city has it all! Watching the sunset at 11pm and the sunrise at 4 am was surreal. Finland, the land of heavy metal music, exposed me to amazing music festivals, barbeque parties, outdoor sports like tennis, camping, and kayaking, and what not. During the last week of my stay, I went on a vacation to Norway where I was treated to scintillating mountain landscapes, fjords, and lakes. I also attended the midsummer festival celebrations where we bonded over bonfire, wine, and dinner. This internship gave me an exposure to the world of data science and proved to be a stepping stone in my career by paving my way to a Masters in Machine Learning and Data Mining from the same university.

Are you also confused about your career choices? Apply to these cool machine learning internships and get a real-time exposure. 

Editor’s note – If you also have an interesting story to share, you can now participate in Your Internship Story Contest 2017 and win cash prizes and goodies worth INR 1 Lac!

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