Python Open Lab Reflections

This fall semester I got an excellent opportunity to work as a Digital Center Intern, as part of the Digital Centers Internship Program. My work involved data consulting, as well as assisting in leading Python OpenLabs. I am a Statistician, so  R is more intuitive to me. However, due to onset of Machine Learning and Neural Networks, Python is “the” language.

I believe that one can not build anything great on a weak foundation. This is what drove all the Python OpenLab sessions. We spent considerable time on teaching about variables, variable assignment, different operators, data types, manipulating them, writing small functions, looping over different data types, and then finally introduced Numpy and Pandas package. I personally tried to draw a parallel with R language as and when I could, to help R users learn better as well as students who are unfamiliar with R language, to gain an insight into a very helpful tool.

Practice makes one perfect, and therefore after midterm, we started off our sessions with first half-an hour devoted to working on assessment worksheets. This seemed to be very helpful, as not only did it help the students to understand where they stand and things they need to work on, but also gave us an idea as to what topics need to be repeated over and over again. This also lead to more engaging discussions, where every student came up with their own way to solve a problem. Discussion definitely helps to understand things better, and we did see it work during our OpenLab sessions. We found the students to be more involved in learning together.

The consulting part of my job was very rewarding indeed. During this one semester, I got to work on very diverse problems that people were trying to solve- be it coding in R, Python, Machine Learning, or basic Statistics. I even got to learnt a bit of generalized linear models, while trying to help somebody understand their model better. I would strongly recommend anybody to be part of this wonderful internship. I believe I have become a better student and a learner by being a part of this internship, and I do hope all the students who came for help, found us to be useful.

Anshuma Chandak
M.A. Statistics (2018)

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