Math/Stat/DS student summers

Each summer Mount Holyoke math/stat/ds students are involved in a variety of activities. Over summer 2023, students participated in research and internships at academic institutions, government agencies, and in industry. The department is proud of the diversity of interests and everyone’s accomplishments.

A survey was sent asking majors, minors, and members of the math/stat/ds club to let us know about the programs they participated and to pass on any advice to students looking for things to do in future summers. Their responses are recorded below.

Cynthia Obianuju Akanaga ’25 completed a Software Engineering internship with Liberty Mutual Insurance.

I was on the Secure Devops team so a lot of my work involved optimizing the CloudForge website (it’s basically like GitHub but very customizable) to enhance user experience and efficiency. For my intern project, I developed a browser extension enabling CloudForge users to assess their code’s carbon emissions, showcasing the company’s dedication to sustainability and creative problem-solving. The technologies I used were mostly VSCode, ReactJS, and GraphQl.

Advice: For my technical interview, I got mostly leetcode easy questions and I emphasized a lot on my experience working in diverse teams in MHC so as long as you hone your skills on leetcode and practice some good stories for your behavioural interview, the sky is your limit.

Assem Amangeldina ’25 interned at John Hancock/Manulife Investment Team as an Analyst. Assem was also an Online Scholar at Girls Who Invest, a selective program and strong community dedicated to helping young female finance-enthusiasts by offering online intensive courses.

Assem Amangeldina

Hi, everyone! My name is Assem and I am a rising junior at Mount Holyoke College, studying Economics and Statistics. I was born and raised in Kazakhstan. At school, you probably have seen me being actively involved in our investment Club or you might know me as a Statistics Tutor. It is nice to meet you all!

We are all aware that gaining work experience is key for boosting your employability, especially as an international student. This summer I was fortunate enough to have interned at John Hancock/Manulife Investment Team as an Analyst - the 4th largest fund manager in the world with about $900B AUM. Along with my internship, I was also an Online Scholar at Girls Who Invest - a selective program and strong community dedicated to helping young female finance-enthusiasts by offering online intensive courses.

These experiences allowed me to grow personally, but it also helped me to gain new skills in basic accounting and financial modeling—experience that I did not previously have. I also gained a better understanding of the banking industry, made a new network, and gained a few new references for the future. But most importantly, I gained a new sense of professionalism and a clearer view of what it meant to be in the professional world. Next summer I excited to embark on a new journey and opportunity set out for me in NYC. Will tell you more about it next time!

Advice: I would advise everyone to take the opportunity and do an internship, even if it is not necessarily in the industry that you wish to work in. There is much to gain from it on both a professional and personal level. If anyone needs any help with recruiting process, please do not hesitate to reach out to me I am a huge people and coffee person - happy to help in any way I can. Here is also my LinkedIn account. Let’s connect!

Jacqueline Anokyewaah ’24 did a remote Data Science Internship with Michigan Technological University.

It was a great time of learning where I cleaned and tidied data. I also annotated datasets using Excel. This experience was related to my Data Science major and made me realize how broad data science is. Data is used everywhere and analyzing it can differ in many ways.

Advice: Learn, network and enjoy your internship experiences!

Caroline Arnold ’24 participated in the “Data Science Across Disciplines” REU at Marquette University and studied how large language models can be used to improve medical crowdfunding outcomes.

Cat Barbour ’24 participated in the Statistics REU at Iowa State University.

Cat Barbour

In partnership with CSAFE (Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence), we continued the work evaluating the accuracy of a system called NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistics Information Network) and other similar systems. When a crime is committed, and a bullet is found on scene, forensic examiners seek to find a match between the found bullet and a bullet whose origin is known. This is what spurs a NIBIN query. Examiners upload item(s) into NIBIN to receive the top \(k\) most similar items in the database. From there, examiners visually compare the \(k\) items to determine if a more thorough visual examination is justified. Our issue lies with the difficulty to verify the reliability of NIBIN’s results as it is a proprietary system. While published statistics are in favor of the use of these systems, our simulations were much less promising.

As a Data Science major, I have spent a lot of time developing a strong foundation in theoretical and applied mathematics and statistics. This became crucial during the summer as I was the primary author of the Shiny app we used to run our simulations. In order to write code that was accurately doing what we wanted it to do, I needed to fully understand what I was asking the application to do. It was only through the background I developed at Mount Holyoke that I was able to do so. Having said that, this summer has opened my eyes to how much more there is to learn. It is because of my experience this summer that I am now applying to graduate schools instead of transitioning directly to industry.

Sophie Coyne ’24 did a summer REU at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the Spatial Ecology and Conservation lab.

Sophie Coyne

My independent research project focused on the multitrophic bird-insect-tree relationships and how they are impacted by tree diversity and microclimate (small scale temperature and humidity), particularly for forest restoration efforts. I worked in a large forest regeneration experiment called “Biodiversitree”. I designed and built special cages to exclude birds from eating insects on certain branches of trees, and then assessed amounts of damage to leaves (called herbivory) before and after putting out the cages. We then fit Bayesian models to the data to assess how different factors influenced rates of herbivory and while some of the results are still TBD, we did find that different types of herbivory seem to respond differently to microclimate, and that tree diversity impacts how much birds control the insect damage. This was an incredibly cool program and helped me get firsthand field research experience and a better understanding of ecosystem restoration. While it was less math-heavy, the problem-solving skills I’ve developed within the math major were very helpful, and so were the statistics classes I have taken. It has helped confirm my interests in environmental research and showed me I really love doing fieldwork.

Advice: You don’t necessarily need tons of relevant experience - they look for people who are motivated to do research and value a variety of academic backgrounds. There are a bunch of different labs so looking into them and talking about specific things that interest you in your application essay is really important.

Midge Hartshorn ’24 participated in the Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Solar REU, studying the Sun in Cambridge, MA.

Midge Hartshorn

This was a fantastic experience that helped me refine my goals for graduate study and beyond. Students are immersed in rigorous 10-week novel research projects about a topic that is not typically covered in undergrad (no Sun experience required!). My project was evaluating the opacity of certain spectral lines in the solar chromosphere during small-scale impulsive events, and involved a lot of programming (primarily in IDL). I also learned a ton about the Sun (lots of magnetic field physics!) and other astrophysical concepts while getting to meet a very diverse team of researchers from all around the world.

Advice: Thoroughly read the project descriptions, and when you select your top two choices, make sure your essay demonstrates something relevant to those descriptions! You do NOT need to be an astronomy or physics major to apply.

Elliot Haugen ’24 interned in the IT department of Cambridge Associates, an asset management company.

Elliot Haugen

I haven’t used my math skills too much outside of understanding different investment performance metrics they use at work. However, I’ve warmed up to finance through this opportunity and I’m now hoping to work in quantitative research at a hedge fund, bank, or high-frequency trading firm after graduation.

Advice: Learn networking and make it a habit even if you don’t consider yourself social. I got lucky with this internship but most of my colleagues did not, they had a preexisting connection. As a math major, you can seriously do anything in my opinion. If you passed Real Analysis I’m pretty sure you can learn anything else you wanna put your mind to. So do lots of research on careers and ask around about what people are getting into. Develop the skills you see appearing most on job descriptions you’re interested in. Don’t limit yourself based on your background :)

Sam Kadel ’23 did the Big Data REU at UMBC.

I worked on a dataset of proton beam therapy images, and worked on a machine learning model to remove noise from said images so that we can more accurately see where proton beam lasers are going in cancer patients.

Advice: This internship is remote - it doesn’t say that on the application, but it was remote. Communication is also really important in these sorts of internships, and you need to ask multiple specific questions about what materials already exist (github? Google Drive? grabcad?)

Willow Kelleigh ’24 interned at The Learning Partnership.

I participated in an REU focused on quantitative analysis of education research related to CS in Chicago Public Schools. I did an analysis of student experiences with making personal connections to what they learn, and used multiple imputation and structural equation modeling. In terms of how it has impacted my future, I got a job offer with the people hosting my REU and accepted.

Advice: I didn’t really apply in the traditional sense but it would help if you have an education background.

Deepika Kumawat ’24 did a physics research internship at MIT.

Deepika Kumawat

This summer, I participated in a research internship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) through the Center of Integrated Quantum Mechanics. My work focused on optical characterization of AgCrP2S6, an interesting 2D material that features chains of silver and chromium atoms that behave like 1D materials. I measured the band gap of 1.3 eV, which showed excellent agreement with DFT calculations.

Aria Mallare ’25 volunteered as a coach for Coach for College.

Aria Mallare

Over the summer, I volunteered as a coach for Coach for College, a program that aims to promote higher education in rural Vietnam. I spent a month living in Rạch Gòi where me and my team of American and Vietnamese university students taught academic subjects, sports, and life skills to rising 8th and 9th graders at Him Lam Middle School. While our official title is “coach,” the role is so much more than that. We lead teams of children and inspire them to continue their education and be lifelong learners. I lead the Green Team alongside amazing co-coaches. I also taught mathematics and coached basketball.

Advice: Strengthen your intercultural communication skills!

Kylee Miller ’24 worked at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism through the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP).

Kylee Miller

I conducted research on differences in grey matter volumes by sex and alcohol use disorder status. I established the neuroimaging analysis procedure and worked on automating the processing of structural MRIs. I utilized MATLAB, Python, and RStudio. I learned new statistical methods and softwares. I plan on continuing neuroimaging research when I return to NIH after I graduate for my research fellowship through UGSP.

Advice: Look into the NIH Summer Reseaarch Programs! There are lots of math and stat heavy research being done. Be specific on what type of research you are interested in and examples of people doing it at the NIH.

Autumn Nguyen ’25 did fog research in an REU at the Friday Harbor Lab and participated in AI ethics discussions in the IDEAS program at UC San Diego.

Autumn Nguyen

It’s Autumn! I will share with you two of my experiences this summer that have given me the most inspiration, for both my intellectual pursuit and career.

The first one was conducting my own research project for the first time. I was part of a tight-knit REU cohort at the Friday Harbor Lab, and we were together on the beautiful San Juan Island for two months. There, I researched coastal fog in the context of global warming. Setting out to understand fog frequency patterns and its effect on the intertidal ecosystems around the island, I wrote code to analyze satellite imagery and used Computer Vision to classify the fog photos that were taken by the cameras I set up around the island. I was glad I could use my logical thinking skills learned from CS and Math classes at MHC to tackle environmental problems like this!

My second experience was learning how to think about the ethics and social impacts of Artificial Intelligence (AI) through both technical and philosophical perspectives. As part of a small cohort of the IDEAS program in UC San Diego, I got to contribute to discussions about aspects in the AI field like privacy, biases, governance, etc., with faculty and students whose expertise spanned from computer science and mathematics to philosophy and economics. In a group of four, I got to apply what I learned to try tackling a real-world issue, California wildfire, using AI – keeping ethics and social impact as the top priorities.

Since I declared my majors, my career goal has been that I wanted to use my skills in Computer Science and Mathematics to solve environmental issues, but those two experiences have helped me see the journey to that goal much more clearly, and I’m so thankful for that!

Advice: I believe that essays are the main application materials that these two programs looked at. When I wrote those essays – the most common theme of which being “Why do you want to join the program?”, I tried not to think that I had to write something that could impress someone so that they think I deserve to be in the program (while I believed that I DO deserve it!). Rather, I think that I was writing these just to express my true feelings. Because there were definitely reasons why I chose to apply to these programs over others, I thought of the essays as a challenge for me to put these intuitive reasons into coherent words, rather than a challenge to get admitted. This way of thinking has helped the process of writing application essays become much more enjoyable for me, so I hope that it can also help future applicants. If anyone is interested in participating in Friday Harbor Lab REU or UC San Diego’s IDEAS next year, I’m happy to chat more. You can reach out to me through Linkedin or email.

Bea Rodriguez ’24 worked as a Consultant for the company TechDNA.

Bea Rodriguez

I reprogrammed a tool they were using to be faster and have more options. I learned a lot about coding conventions, standards, and python multiprocessing. Tragically, it was all mostly computer science related, not very mathematically challenging.

Advice: The point of summer jobs is to learn! Whether it’s an internship or a consultantship or whatever, as long as you’re honest in your skills and experience don’t be afraid to apply and search for jobs that are outside of your depth. Companies know what they want, and it’s usually cheaper for them to hire an inexperienced but smart and trustable intern to work on a project than pay a real company to do it for them. The worst they can say is no! Always apply (at the very least, you’ll get experience with interviews).

Anqi Wei ’24 participated in the UMass Math & Stats REU.

Anqi Wei

I attended UMass Math & Stats REU 2023, an eight-week opportunity to do research in pure math, applied math, data science, or statistics. I worked with another student and my supervisor on the meta-population covid model. Following previous studies, our study focused on understanding how new variants spread between different populations and cities to better estimate hotspots and track the spread of the virus. This project gave me a good understanding of applied mathematics research and gave me some inspiration in the direction of my graduate application.

Advice: Don’t hesitate to apply! UMass offers excellent opportunities for Five College students and is also friendly to international students. Also, because the application website is hidden and difficult to find, remember to check the UMass Mathematics Department website often.

Hollis Welling ’25 participated in the Girls Who Invest Summer Intensive Program.

Hollis Welling

I participated in the Girls Who Invest Summer Intensive Program, which included a 4-week training program focused on core finance and investment concepts, in addition to a 7-week investment management internship. I was an Investments Intern at CalSTRS, the California State Teacher’s Retirement System, which is the 2nd largest pension fund in the U.S. I completed a research project about big data applications in investment management, and a project that included statistical analysis to create an investment recommendation. I was able to further learn about the connection of data science and investment management, which has motivated me to look at quantitative finance internships for next summer.

Advice: If you are coming from a non-traditional finance background, do not look at that as a weakness! The program looks for people from diverse backgrounds and wants to give opportunities to those that may find it more difficult to break into the finance industry.

Feifan Zhang ’24 spent 8 weeks at Texas State University for an REU this summer.

My group was the Stat group, which tried to develop a new linear-rank-type test for interval-censored survival data based on the proportional odds model. Since I am now double majoring in Mathematics and Stat-Econ, this research is closely related to my majors. This summer research gave me a new impression of what research was and allowed me to see what the research would be like in a “pure” stat field, which strengthened my thinking of applying for graduate school.

Advice: Be well prepared for the REU application; it will be much more competitive than I previously expected.

Astrid Zhao ’24 did an internship at Morgan Stanley as a Technology Analyst.

Advice: Apply early.

Boxiao Zhu ’24 did summer research in the math/stat department at MHC.

I did summer research in Mount Holyoke College with Professor Tim Chumley and Professor Alanna Hoyer-Leitzel. We investigated the impact of re-exposure of respiratory virus on previously infected individuals by utilizing different stochastic differential equations model. We ran the simulations using the mathematical software Matlab on computers and combined the simulated data to plot the graph to fit the data to mathematical distributions. The research not only required the content from probability and differential equations, but also practice data analysis and programming skills, which are all essential capacity as a math major. As a research assistant, the experience is kind of similar to life in graduate school. I think this summer research gives me the confidence to pursue and adapt to my future graduate school.