Week in the Life: Data Science

Kenna Pritchard, studying Data Science, takes us through her Week 9

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Photograph by Joanne Skelton

I’m Kenna Pritchard, a postgraduate student studying for a master’s in Data Science although I also did my undergraduate degree here in Mathematics. I am a member of Graduate College and have also opted to live on campus, which I feel was the right decision in terms of my timetable and deadlines! Beyond the realm of studying I am also the President of Pole Fitness so have the extra responsibilities of that from week to week!

Monday, 4 December

I have quite a bad relationship with Mondays. I don’t know what it is about a Sunday night, but I am never able to get a good night’s sleep which just adds to the horror that is a Monday 9am. However, today it was particularly bad: I’ve been ill for almost two weeks with a bad chest and, therefore, after much nagging from friends and family, I gave in and rang the Doctors. They made me an appointment for 10.30am which meant that I missed my three-hour lab session!

The Doctors was as awful as to be expected: I’m one of those people who avoids the Doctors at all costs. I have to go often enough for tablet check-ups and asthma related things, so if I can avoid extra trips I will.  This trip was made slightly better by the fact there was a medical student in today, which is who I saw: she was absolutely lovely and made the whole thing bearable. After that they sent me off to the Pharmacy with a five-day prescription of steroids. This meant, for each day of the week I was going to: a) have to ensure I ate breakfast, and b) follow my breakfast with a lovely serving of six tablets.

After such an eventful morning I felt I was justified in returning to my flat, getting comfy and relaxing before a bit of work. Turns out my body disagreed, and the bit of relaxing turned into a four-hour nap! I managed to fit some work in that evening but pretty much ended up writing off the day and telling myself I’d do better tomorrow!

Tuesday, 5 December

Tuesday: my wonderful day off! Or so it should be, but for some reason me and one of the groups I’m doing a project with thought it would be a smart idea to organise a 9am meeting. In all fairness to ourselves, we did get a lot done which was certainly a relief as it felt like we were starting to fall behind on preparation for our presentation on Friday. This took three hours to work through, at which point I called it a day and everyone went their separate ways with individual work to do.

Then came the most exciting part of my day. It’s that time of year when graduate scheme applications start to close (the thought of this makes me feel sick). I have managed to find a little time to apply for some schemes, one of which is the deVere Group graduate programme. The first proper stage beyond the application is a webinar where you get to hear more about the company and programme. I was weirdly nervous, which made absolutely no sense as they wouldn’t be able to see me at all: it was literally just me watching them.

However, once the webinar was over something worth being nervous about came through: an email with a link to a psychometric test, which (just to add a little pressure) had to be completed by tomorrow! I had never done a psychometric test in my life, so like all normal students I panicked and enlisted the advice of my friends. Turns out it isn’t really something you can prepare for: they basically told me to go with my instincts, which I did and within half an hour it was done.

The rest of my day was dedicated to work. I am currently working on two group projects, one of which involves a presentation and a report, with that group I met earlier, and the other involves writing a data mining program and a report to go with it. The afternoon and evening were dedicated to the latter. I headed off to the Learning Zone to attempt to finish coding the program with the help of my friend, who although isn’t in my group or even on my course, is a coding genius! We didn’t manage to finish the code, as such, but got it to a place where I was confident we could easily get it done at another point, which put me in a good position for meeting with my group tomorrow.

Wednesday, 6 December

This morning involved me waking up with a high level of self-loathing. I had every intention of having a lie-in, but I stupidly left my phone on “loud” and was woken up at 7am by my friend who had a breakthrough about my code. Now I don’t want to seem ungrateful, because truly, I am so thankful for all the help he has given me. However, at 7am I could have quite happily waited a few hours for the help!

Once we’d finished working on his breakthrough, swapping code on Facebook Messenger, the damage was done: I figured I may as well continue working. It ended up being an extremely productive morning and I got work done for both group projects and started looking at the coding work for my Monday deadline. All of this was made better by the fact I felt like a functioning human for the first time in two weeks, as my tablets were starting to work!

Wednesday afternoons are taken up by a three-hour lab session in which we are meant to go through tutorials we are given online. However, nine times out of ten no one does and instead people work on their group project that is for this module. I spent most of the three hours explaining my code, trying to figure out the last few parts and generally just chatting. No one seems to enjoy this module so generally the lab session is miserable with people moaning a lot about it. Today was no different but it was, at least, entertaining to hear people’s complaints.

My evening was relatively dull. I had a lovely stew for dinner and chatted to my friends on our group-chat while doing very little beyond watching Making a Murderer. The suggestion of a pint at the Grad Bar was brought up, but none of us were particularly feeling like venturing into the cold. And it’s that awful time of term when our bank accounts would rather we stayed in! So, a much-needed early night was had.

Thursday, 7 December

Today was a very long day, spent in preparation for the group presentation, tomorrow: we booked out a library pod from 9am until 6pm. The company was good: I get along well with both groups I’m working with, but it was a long and tedious day and when you’re stuck in a room with no windows for so long you do start to feel like you’re going slightly crazy! Regardless, we did have an incredibly productive day: we finalised our PowerPoint (which in reality means “created it”, apart from the three slides I’d managed to get done beforehand) and decided what we were going to say. We left feeling substantially more confident about the presentation.

Sadly, at this time of term with deadlines looming there is no rest for the wicked, so I went straight from the library to the Learning Zone where I spent an hour and a half continuing with the code for my other group project. I then retired to my flat to have a stir fry and a much-needed rest. It was the earliest I’ve fallen asleep in quite some time, with my head hitting the pillow at 10pm.

Friday, 8 December

Presentation day! It’s safe to say I was relatively nervous. I was up at 7.30am to make sure I had time to go through my cue cards, have breakfast and get ready. It did make me realise that the worst part of doing a presentation is having to make myself look presentable. I should not have to spend more than five minutes in a morning worrying about my makeup, but there I was: stood in front of my mirror for at least half an hour doing it. Then there is the dreaded outfit choice. I don’t own a smart pair of trousers, so settled for a tartan dress with a blazer and my flats. I looked very smart, but December in Lancaster and a dress are not a good combination.

I met with my group at 10am and we spent the next three hours finalising the PowerPoint and running through it. By 1pm we were all ready to have it over and done with. We all went our own ways to quickly grab some lunch before reconvening at the seminar room with the other groups. We presented third, and it went about as well as could be expected.

After the presentations, I took a well-earned few hours off and enjoyed the Christmas market with a friend (the reindeers were absolutely adorable), before spending much of the evening coding. I used to hate coding but I’m now at a point where I’ve done it so much I’ve learned to enjoy it! The challenge is quite enjoyable, especially once you get to the stage I’m at with this code where it works but needs improving and optimising.

I very much lost track of time while coding and before I knew it, it was midnight which was welcomed in with a text from my friend who had gone out for a Christmas meal and had a few too many! She is new to Lancaster this year and still doesn’t have her bearings in town, so I kept her company with messages while she found her way to a taxi rank! Definitely an entertaining end to the night.

Saturday, 9 December

Normally, I try to dedicate Saturday morning to getting errands, such as shopping, out the way before working all afternoon. Today this definitely didn’t happen. Three of my friends and I drove to town in the snow, which was not fun for me as I was driving, because we all had to do a little bit of Christmas shopping, for cards and things. We had a very early lunch at McDonald’s in order to help cure my friend’s hangover, before going onto Asda for the exciting part of our shopping trip!

We had decided that, on Monday, we are going to do Christmas dinner as a group (there are seven of us in total). The four of us were in charge of shopping for it. We went all out with the trimmings for the Christmas dinner, bought a Christmas pudding and custard, a cheese board (after much persuasion from one person) and enough alcohol to ensure a merry evening!

After our little shopping adventure, it was 2pm by the time we got home which meant there was very little point in starting work, as my Pole Christmas meal started at 5pm. I caught up on the previous night’s episode of I’m a Celebrity and got ready for my evening. Buses were running late due to the bad weather but I just about made it on time! It was a lovely evening at the Pendle Witch with plenty of laughs and good food, but sadly I wasn’t able to go out afterwards with everyone due to the amount of work I had to do on Sunday. But the time I was there was great!

Sunday, 10 December

Today was dedicated solely to work. Me and my group met up and divided the work for the report, to go with the coding I’ve been doing, and we smashed out the start of our conclusion too. I then met with my other friend to continue with my coding and finish the assignment due for Monday, before heading home to do the write-up for that assignment.

It has been an extremely long day and quite a dull one, but it is a relief to know I’ve been productive. Now the countdown to the end of term begins, and I fully expect a week of my friend and I constantly reminding each other that it’s “almost over” as we try to smash out the last few deadlines!