From 22 July to 2 August, the Ukrainian Catholic University held the fourth Data Science Summer School. This year there were 70 participants from 17 countries.
The school was initiated and conducted by the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty. Among the organizers were: the Director of the Master’s Program in Data Science, Oleksii Molchanovskyi; Project Manager Alina Korniychuk; and Master’s Program Manager Maria Marko. During the two weeks, student-volunteers from UCU and other universities of the city helped the team.
According to Molchanovskyi, the particularity of the summer school was the uniqueness of its theme. In addition, the latest research demonstrates that in Ukraine the summer school format is gaining popularity. Considering the European experience, the organizers proposed a program in the format of 13 mini-courses from which each participant could choose up to four and take courses for 2 to 4 days. This allowed the students to immerse themselves more deeply in the themes of most interest to them.
The following mini-programs were offered: Customer Analytics, Natural Language Processing, Machine Teaching, Fairness and interpretability in Machine Learning, Discrete Computation Graphs, Applied Econometrics (Macro and Finance), Machine Learning for time series and sensor data, Deep Learning for Computer Vision, Bayesian Thinking for Applied Machine Learning, Machine learning for financial data structures, Conversational Design, Introduction to Urban Data Science, and Security and Privacy of Machine Learning. At the end of the school, the students had a final assignment, received from teachers of the school and representatives of outside companies. Mentors helped the participants with their projects.
Some 200 candidates applied to participate in the school. The students admitted represented Germany, Italy, Azerbaijan, Canada, Brazil, Morocco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Turkey, Slovakia, Belarus, China, Croatia, the USA, and Uzbekistan. Ukraine was represented by residents of Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, and Mykolaiv. In addition, the number of female participants at the school was almost a third of the total number of students.
And not only international students but international teachers also shared their experience. There were specialists in data analysis, business analytics, and machine learning. The foreign teachers at the school represented countries including the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the USA, Germany, Great Britain, Austria, Italy, and France. Ukrainian teachers were represented by staff of universities and foreign companies.
In order to participate in the school, students needed to explain their motivation for studying in the field of Data Science and Machine Learning and to have basic experience in programming and the necessary knowledge in mathematics and statistics. Also taken into account were previous IT experience and knowledge of the English language, in which all the lessons were conducted. According to the organizers, with a serious selection, after each school finished they became acquainted with 3 to 5 future students of our master’s program.
During their studies, the participants either lodged at the UCU Collegium or found lodging in the city. All the necessary instructional materials were provided for the students. There were also coffee breaks and additional cultural programs: a tour of Lviv, quest rooms, and master classes for those who wanted to get better acquainted with the city and their colleagues. In addition, there was an opportunity to exercise at the university’s new sports field or play table games.
Levko Ivanchuk, a computer scientist, shared his impressions of participating in the school: “A few friends posted info about the school on Facebook and I was interested. I was impressed by the high level of complexity of the instructional program and the innovativeness of the proposed themes, in my opinion, at an unprecedented level for Ukraine. Inasmuch as I studied in Canada, it was interesting to see what a modern UCU summer school in Ukraine could offer. The selection process was simple and understandable, but I was very pleased that they accepted me, regardless of the fact that I haven’t been a student for a long time.”
Ivanchuk took part in the courses NLP (Natural Language Processing), Security in Machine Learning, Conversation Design, and Deep Learning for Computer Vision. The first two were especially interesting for him. At first he registered for the school specifically because of them: “Inasmuch as I am developing a dialogue system for a robot, I learned very much for myself from these programs. But the atmosphere and teaching format were not new for me: it all reminded me very much of lessons in Canada. Of course, I’m sure that for students from Ukraine this is an entirely new experience. Certain differences are noticeable between UCU and my university, but they are more connected with a lack of time, because the teachers were given only three days to teach a large amount of materials. Regardless of this limitation, they managed.”
In addition to study, Ivanchuk also established contact with the students, teachers, and organizers of the school, with whom he plans to continue cooperation in the future. It turned out to be especially pleasant that all the students had varying backgrounds: this allowed them to gain from their colleagues’ experience, and it was also very pleasant to feel part of a group.
David Sommer is a student of Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences (Germany), where he studies data science. He learned about the summer school from the Go East service of DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). Thanks to this service, a colleague of Sommer has already had an opportunity to travel to Russia for study. Also, after a search for the optimal opportunity, Sommer chose the UCU Data Science Summer School.
“The process of applying took me much time. I needed to apply to UCU in English and to DAAD in German. But I needed the least effort to explain my motivation, because this summer school ideally fit my specialization. I even found a reference to a bachelor’s work thesis that related to Bayesian statistics. I chose the following courses: Introduction to Urban Data Science, Machine Learning for time series and sensor data, Customer Analytics, and Bayesian Thinking for Applied Machine Learning. In general, I was very happy with how well everything was thought out, and how they used technologies to organize time (the programs Slack or Google Calendar). I also liked the attractive campus and park next to it. As for the city, I enjoyed the variety of bars and restaurants where it was possible again to meet, in an informal atmosphere, the students of the school,” Sommer shares his memories.
Yevhen Kotovskyi, a Python developer at EVO.company, previously took an online course in linear algebra at UCU. Since then, he has followed our university on social media, where he learned about the school. He is interested in Data Science and also decided to use the opportunity to systematize his knowledge, test himself during project work, and get acquainted with like-minded people. “I worried if I’d be selected, because I knew about the big competition. And the application seemed intended for people with significantly more experience; I was particularly concerned about the item ‘your achievements in Data Science.’ Before submitting the application, I intensively took online courses, so that, if necessary, I would have the opportunity to confirm my successes. When I didn’t see the letter on the day the results were announced, I was very sad and asked the organizers for feedback on my application. Instead, they suggested I check my spam folder, where I saw the acceptance letter.”
Kotovskyi started his studies with a warm-up week for beginners. The course in machine learning turned out to be fairly simple, but, thanks to the teacher, he was able to find much of interest and add to his previous knowledge. The statistics course also left an impression: for nine hours the teacher shared enough information for a semester course, Kotovskyi said. For the main part of the program, he decided to study Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, Bayesian Thinking and Discrete Computational Graph. At the final stage, he worked on a project in bioinformatics, during which he researched the resistance of bacteria to various antibiotics on the basis of genetic data. The young man chose this project because he is interested and inspired by the use of artificial intelligence technologies in the field of health.
“The courses were so varied that anyone could find the maximum useful for him or herself, regardless of the goals set for the school. Personally, I saw the courses as an opportunity to strengthen my understanding of the basics of Data Science. So I wasn’t afraid to ask the teachers questions. At that time, people with some experience often asked questions about problems they encountered in practice. I had so many impressions that it came to mind that it would be significantly easier to return from an ordinary vacation to ordinary daily rhythm! This feeling was caused by a very busy instructional program in which you wanted to manage to study and do so much more, new friends that you didn’t want to leave, and UCU’s general creative and inspiring atmosphere. If right now I would have to recall my feelings during the school, the desire comes back to do still more. These were two incredibly intensive and useful weeks. I continue to stay in contact with many people from the school: We’re all different, but incredibly satisfied with the way we spent our time!” Kotovskyi sums up.
But, as we earlier noted, not only males attended this year’s school. Anna Weigand, a student from Munich, studies online M.Sc. Media Computer Science at the Technische Hochschule Brandenburg. She found out about the summer school in Ukraine from a news e-mail of her university: “The program’s theme seemed very interesting to me, because this is one of the two areas of my specialization. I researched schools which offered classes in this theme but, nevertheless, returned my attention to the program in Lviv. I also really liked the city and the university. I also quickly applied and received confirmation of my participation, which made me very happy! In addition, I applied for a DAAD stipend, which also was an important part of my application to the school.”
Weigand decided to take the courses Machine Teaching, Machine Learning for financial data structures, Conversational Design and Customer Analytics. She was satisfied with UCU’s motivational atmosphere, the people involved, the organization of the summer school, and the city itself. She now expects that she will again be able to return to Ukraine and get better acquainted with it.
Oleksii Molchanovskyi also shared his impressions: “Interaction with the participants and the teachers left very positive emotions. Everyone recognized the high level of the school’s organization, and we, for our part, were concerned about the participants’ comfort, not only during studies but also outside. I am glad that every year the project attracts more and more foreign students. More and more people abroad are learning about us, above all in the EU. Every year we have participants from Asia. Thanks to such an opportunity, people get acquainted with our university, note its contemporary character, from quality buildings to experienced teachers. Certainly, such comments are our greatest achievement.”
According to the organizers, the annual school has successful indicators. But they don’t plan to stop with that, since next year we are expecting a new selection of program participants. It traditionally takes place in the second half of July and will have a similar format. The project team will also monitor news in the industry and turn attention to students’ desires, as expressed in surveys they filled out.
Text: Antonina Chundak
Photos: Bohdan Yemets