The dlab hosted a great crew of interns in the summer of 2017 via our department’s prestigious Summer@EPFL program. Read here how some of them summarize (summerize?) their impressions and experiences.

Ivan Paskov

Ivan Paskov, undergraduate student from Stanford University, USA. My time in the Summer@EPFL program felt like something out of a fairytale. The excitement begins from the moment you arrive on campus and look around. EPFL’s campus has a very modern glass and aluminum architecture that’s nestled within the snowy mountains. It’s hauntingly beautiful – and takes your breath away the first time you see it, as well as every subsequent time. It then gets even better once the work begins. I could not recommend Professor Robert West in the Data Science Lab more highly. First, the problems he wrestles with are very interesting – both theoretically and computationally. But perhaps even more importantly, he is an incredible advisor that will change the way you look at research. He is very generous with his time, incredibly supportive, and the kind of person who you will come to legitimately call a friend by the end of your internship. But beyond work, there are countless adventures to be had. During your stay, you will meet people from literally all over the world, who possess unique perspectives and stories to share. Over the weekends, you’ll have the opportunity to travel with these friends – Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and anywhere in Switzerland is a quick train ride away. All in all, the Summer@EPFL program will challenge you intellectually, introduce you to countless new cultures and cuisines, and facilitate enormous personal growth. It may very well be the best summer you ever have!

Valentin Hartmann

Valentin Hartmann, master’s student from TU München, Germany. Have you ever walked across a university campus and suddenly had to stop in awe of the sheer beauty in front of you? That’s what I promise will happen to you when the sun-sparkling Lake Geneva below EPFL surrounded by green and white mountains captivates your eye. By the end of my internship I had climbed several of those mountains together with other interns and with each trip won or strengthened another friendship. I think I never got so quickly so close with so many people. But those aren’t the only encounters that made my stay that unique and invaluable. I knew that EPFL is a very international university. But not enough that the students, professors and interns come from all over the world. The faculty also every few days invites international researchers for talks and discussions. I loved this opportunity to talk to experts in their fields – to broaden my horizon and sometimes to advance my research. Together with Bob I developed a protocol that allows a server to perform machine learning on data spread across multiple clients without learning anything about individual clients and thus preserving full privacy. We wouldn’t have gotten so far if it weren’t for the numerous discussions and the very open, innovation-embracing environment at EPFL. On top of that, Bob even established the contact to a company that allows us to test the protocol with thousands of their users. From lab to industry in one internship – what else could you wish for?

Andrew Wang

Andrew Wang, undergraduate student from Cornell University, USA. My summer in Switzerland, spent surrounded by the Alps, taught me an important thing about myself: I’m a mountain climbing addict. It’s a rush of clarity, after hours of sweaty uphill treading, to look back down to see the city where you started your hike, a tiny square weaved among the other villages and farms like a quilt. At the same time, my summer at the dlab taught me that studying social networks gives me the same rush of clarity: After days and days of hacking away at data, it’s a special reward to discover behind the numbers a phenomenon that connects people, and to take another look at yourself as part of a tapestry of social interaction. Professor West and I ended up finding out some interesting things about the relation between team performance and the balance of status in Wikipedia communities, but I think what I got most out of the results was looking back at the uphill hike: navigating through new territory to plot out a research path, and working with the other dlabbers to solve tricky puzzles and chug through data. And hiking together is important – not just up the Alps, but in the lab tossing around ideas when we got stuck, or sharing showerthoughts at lunch. Professor West and the other dlabbers put in 110% to make this kind of collaboration happen. I’m glad to have spent this past summer making great friends, solidifying my research interests and goals and finding some great high-up views in Switzerland (and France and Germany!).