Grad Students Enjoy 2018 IMSM

A research group presents their findings to peers and industry mentors on the last day of the 24th annual IMSM. The week-long workshop teaches students the value of collaborative research and opens their minds to current opportunities in data science research.

It was another productive year for SAMSI’s 24th annual Industrial Math and Statistics Modeling (IMSM) Workshop for Graduate Students, presented in July, on the campus of N.C. State University in Raleigh, NC.

Almost 40 students from more than 30 universities nationwide attended the annual workshop that began in 1993. The workshop offered students something they don’t ordinarily get in a classroom and gave them a snapshot of life as a data science researcher.

“Students worked in groups of six or seven on problems that came from industry or national labs,” said Mansoor Haider, who is an Associate Director at SAMSI, a professor in the math department at N.C. State University and also Chair of the IMSM workshop. “It’s often their first experience working on problem solving, using mathematics and statistics that come from folks outside of academia.”

From day one of the workshop, the students in attendance relied, not just on their personal knowledge of mathematics, but also on developing relationships with their peers so that they could work together as a team to present their findings. The collaborative environment is intentionally setup each year in order to mirror current industry trends.

“The thing that I think is really unique about IMSM is that it’s a short period of time where you really have to work collaboratively to get something done,” said Grant Weller, a Vice President for Research at Savvysherpa, a division of the United Healthcare Group. “The projects we [Savvysherpa] tend to work on are very large and require collaborative work and people of different backgrounds and disciplines working with each other. It’s been impressive to see how this group has come together.”

Weller is very familiar with SAMSI. He supported the 2011-2012 Uncertainty Quantification Program as a graduate student visitor. Like Weller, many former SAMSI undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs come back to attend SAMSI programs and workshops later in their professional and academic careers. They share their knowledge and their experience with the next crop of talented applied mathematicians, statisticians and computer scientists.

This year’s supporting organizations included:

  • Saavysherpa (a division of the United Healthcare group)
  • MIT – Lincoln Laboratories
  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • Rho – a national drug development company
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

and

  • The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

“This was the first workshop I have been to of this kind and I wanted to get a feel what a job in industry would be like and this workshop was a really good experience for me in terms of that,” said Michael Byrne, an attending graduate student enrolled in the applied math Ph.D. program at Arizona State University. “It was a great opportunity for me to work with other people that are industry-minded and to get an idea of what people do in industry on a daily basis.”

In addition, to their group research, students also participated in a short career fair where they got an opportunity to connect and network with this year’s partner organizations. Companies and organizations often comment that there is a shortage of math and statistical science students to fill the critical roles they need to address their current research. IMSM helps to potentially fill that void.

“We really viewed this as an opportunity to connect and develop relationships with SAMSI, which is a great research institution in statistics and applied mathematical sciences, and is the primary focus of what we [Savvysherpa] do,” said Weller.

At the end of week-long event, each group presented their findings to their peers and faculty and industry mentors. The students walked away from the experience with a new perspective on how research is conducted and they also walked away with new contacts and friendships from the experience.

To see what the groups presented and to find out more about IMSM, visit: https://www.samsi.info/imsm-18.

Participants, faculty and industry mentors at the 24th annual IMSM on the campus of N.C. State University.