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College Students Get Inside Scoop on R&D From Northwestern Mutual Employees

Rebecca Schwerdtfeger, Project Manager

Sep 10, 2021

Data science professionals from Northwestern Mutual recently shared their perspectives with college students on what research and development looks like from a corporation’s point of view.

An industry panel discussion on July 16 cohosted by the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute (NMDSI) and Marquette University supported the school’s Data Science Across Disciplines Research Experiences for Undergraduates (DSAD-REU) program to motivate and inspire students about the field of data science.

The DSAD-REU program immerses undergraduate students in an interdisciplinary research-intensive training and mentoring program. The program includes students from across the country majoring in data science, computer science, statistics, mathematics, or related areas. Summer research projects vary in disciplines such as core data science, exercise science, healthcare, social science and spatial analytics.

The focus of the discussion was primarily on R&D: What does it look like at a company, how R&D has changed at Northwestern Mutual the last several years, and the kinds of challenges the company faces. The discussion also included career advice for students who may be entering the corporate environment for the very first time.

Former NMDSI co-director Dr. Edward Blumenthal kicked off the panel discussion by introducing his replacement Scott Rex, the director of the business analytics program and instructor of marketing at Marquette University.  

Keynote speaker Northwestern Mutual VP of Data Science and Analytics Anju Gupta emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of data science work, the demand for data science projects, the process of prioritizing work, and the importance of honing cross-cultural collaboration skills. Regardless of the organization, data science work requires the collaboration of data scientists, data engineers and business leaders.

Joining Gupta from Northwestern Mutual were data science professionals Jill Cummings, Lauren Dominick and David Manske who spoke about the expansion of data science efforts at the company, the robustness of data governance efforts, and the process of staffing data science research projects.

Through this NMDSI sponsored event, the DSAD-REU student researchers gained insights from data science and business professionals to guide them in taking research skills developed in the classroom into the corporate environment.

“I like how the panelists gave frank and practical advice for the students,” said Marquette University Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Praveen Madiraju. 

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