Aidana Abdikarim

Specialization: mathematics. Internship: Eurecom, France.

Aidana is from Taraz, she is 22, she has graduated with a bachelor’s degree from NU. At the moment she works in the field of Data Science and plans to enroll in a master’s degree program. In 2019, right before the pandemic, she won the Yessenov Foundation research internship program competition, but she was able to go for an internship only in 2021. What, besides patience and flexibility, helped her win, wait for the implementation of the grant received and successfully complete the internship?

Why is math not boring?
As long as I can remember, I have been interested in it since childhood, as soon as I went to school. But I didn’t quite understand how to apply this knowledge in real life. Of course, now I understand that mathematics is the basis of everything. A strong base in technical subjects develops thinking, the ability to analyze and systematize, think strategically and critically.

How did you find out about the foundation’s competition?
I did a lot of research during my bachelor’s degree, and heard from my friends that there was such an opportunity. Then I decided to test myself and applied.

Why do you think you won?
Of course, the knowledge and experience in the study was a good base, but the selection according to academic indicators was only the first stage. Then they checked the personal qualities of every participant. Apparently, there I was able to show myself as a self-confident and responsible person. I can advise future participants of the competition of the Yessenov Foundation: do not be afraid to make mistakes and boldly change the vector of development if necessary. This will help you understand yourself and form an idea of what you want from life in general and specifically – from an internship.

How did you choose an internship placement?
Having worked in the field of theoretical mathematics and published a research paper, I realized that I was more interested in applied mathematics, more precisely, Data Science and Machine Learning. I already had offers of an internship in the field of pure mathematics, but then pandemic happened, and the internship was postponed for a year. I was able to gain time, better understand what I’m aiming for, take several machine learning courses and improve my programming skills. But I had no research experience in these areas, so I could hardly believe that I would be able to find a laboratory for an internship that would gladly accept me. But there was such a professor – Maurizio Filippone. So I ended up in a research center located in the Sophia Antipolis technology park of the Eurecom Graduate School of Engineering in the south of France.

What did you do during the internship?
For three months of the internship, I worked on a study that the professor’s group had started earlier. Scientifically speaking, they studied the classification of a regression problem. Using this classification, you can get a highly accurate result, but it will require less computing resources than usual. I tested different hypotheses on how to optimize the process, studied the works of other researchers and applied their solutions in our project.

What has been achieved?
I was able to find and apply different algorithms in our project. I also improved my soft skills: how to ask questions, how not to be afraid to seem stupid. My level in the field of programming, knowledge in the field of Bayesian statistics and machine learning has also improved. And besides research, I managed to visit the sea, because, you know, our lab was located near Cannes. I was able to enjoy the scenery of the beaches and the warm weather. I really liked the moderate pace of life on the French Riviera: people slowly sit for hours by the sea, reading books, watching sunsets and chatting in restaurants. Such a relaxed lifestyle is rarely seen in big cities. Due to the fact that several French national holidays passed on the dates of my internship, over the weekend I was able to go not only to Cannes, but to Nice and Monaco as well. I also visited other European cities, such as Paris and Rome.

Was there something that went wrong, Aidana?
The bureaucracy in France has created some difficulties in obtaining a visa due to the lack of European-approved vaccines in Kazakhstan. Don’t forget that I also didn’t speak French (the French really don’t like to speak English). And I also flew back to Kazakhstan from an internship just when the January events began. I had to make a quick decision and change air tickets. As a result, I was stuck in Istanbul for a week. But now I know that I can cope with any force majeure situations even without knowledge of the language and the city. Plus, it was an opportunity for me to walk around Istanbul until flights resume and airports in Kazakhstan open.

Are there any plans for the next couple of years?
Now I work in the field of Data Science in a banking institution and improve my technical skills. Due to the forced postponement of the internship, I postponed the start of my master’s degree for a year as well. So, I plan to continue my studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the master’s program in statistics with a major in analytics.

What are you interested to do the most in your free time?
In order to have rest from my studies and work, I like to spend time studying various mindfulness techniques, in particular – yoga and meditation. It helps a lot to improve physical and mental health, as well as to achieve consistency in thoughts and actions. In addition, I am fond of chess.

15.09.22, Stories

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