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MSc success stories: Aidan Wallace

MSc Success Stories: Aidan Wallace

MSc story piece written by Aidan Wallace who undertook his MSc in Big Data at the University of Stirling 

Taking time to reflect and navigating through my journey

As I come to the closing months of my first year as a PhD student, I find myself looking back on how I got here in the first place. As I polished off the final chapters of my undergraduate thesis in cell biology, I certainly never saw a PhD in my future, let alone one focused with computing Science as something I would pursue. I then looked at possibly masters as little else than an attempt at procrastination from finishing my dissertation, during this time I discovered the MSc in Big Data at the University of Stirling and subsequently discovered the Data Lab funding and support that was perhaps available to me, reading around this course was fascinating and so I eagerly applied and waited.

Shortly after beginning my course in Big Data, through the Data Lab I was able to attend an interview and CV writing masterclass hosted by MBN solutions during which my CV was reviewed by experts who then helped me to strengthen it going forward, this was initially done in preparation for the Data Lab arranged placement that takes place over the summer semester. Due to Covid-19 these placements had to be largely abandoned, but this preparation process was incredibly useful at building myself into a much stronger candidate for employment down the line.

Due to Covid another event organized by the Data Lab had to be rearranged to move onto an online setting, innovation week, this was a week-long event during which Data lab students attended talks from industry experts and individuals involved in a whole host of businesses involving data science as well as being able to undertake a mock project in small groups that centered around developing a data driven solution to helping the city of Glasgow become more of a circular city, this mock project allowed us not only access to real world data and problems but also real world experts and a chance to apply our learned skills outside of the lab ultimately setting us on a path to become more self-sufficient data scientists.

How The Data Lab made a positive impact

As alluded to earlier the Data Lab support throughout my Masters journey had a second unexpected impact on the next stage of my life, during my masters I was able to establish academic connections within the University that ultimately led to being offered to apply for a PhD. After completing a Masters dissertation under who would be my PhD supervisor I was able to more quickly integrate into PhD life especially whilst still under lockdown conditions at home.

Coincidentally my PhD is also funded by the Data Lab alongside an industrial partner in the form of BT. My PhD is focused on Explainability of Non-Deterministic Solvers, this can be broadly broken down into explaining the decisions of commonly used solvers for optimization problems in a way that we can derive human-understandable knowledge about the problem from the non-deterministic solution process and translate that into an explanatory form for end-users. It is hoped this can be achieved through the exploitation of surrogate modelling as well as exploring of using natural language generation and visualisation to translate the problem knowledge gained into explanations comprehensible to domain experts.

5 stars for The Data Lab MSc Programme

I cannot recommend the Data Lab MSc program highly enough for both those currently involved in or wishing to explore a career in data science and those that have never even heard of data science, the Data Lab program not only offers support throughout the Master’s degree section of your journey but also allows you to access a sea of resources and industry experts to make you the best data scientist you can be and allows you to test and hone this skills over a range of Data Lab arranged events.

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