Gelly Mitrodima, Hao Xing.
We organise the LSE Statistics Practitioners’ Challenge for BSc and MSc students. During this event, we collaborate with leading industry partners to initiate competitive projects focusing on real issues faced by companies. Students, who take on the challenge, use their personal and professional skills developed through their program at LSE.
All third-year undergraduate students (LSE Statistics Practitioners’ Challenge for BSc students) and all postgraduate students (LSE Statistics Practitioners’ Challenge for MSc students) within the Department of Statistics.
During the project, led by Gelly Mitrodima (BSc students) and Hao Xing (MSc students), the department of Statistics collaborates with leading industry partners to initiate live competitive projects focusing on real issues faced by companies. In the past we worked with Aviva, JP Morgan, UBS, and QBE. Companies propose a problem, from insurance to trading, and students form teams (3-5 students in each team) in order to apply their interest for their preferred challenge. The teams are then selected from the companies though an interview process and they start working on their approach to the challenge. The students are supervised by Gelly Mitrodima (BSc students) and Hao Xing (MSc students) and other academic staff as well as PhD students in the Department of Statistics. This way students don’t only work for well-known institutions, but they also collaborate with academic staff in the Department of Statistics and get some invaluable guidance. We also organise a communication and presentation skills seminar in collaboration with LSE LIFE. This aims to help students with their actual presentations at the end of the challenge. The challenge starts during Week 1 of Lent term and ends after 5 weeks. In the final stage our students present their findings to the companies and the Department and submit a technical report. The 2018 and 2019 BSc challenges were funded by the Student Experience Enhancement Fund. The funding is required for the prizes for the teams. More specifically, for each project the best first team is awarded with £400 in book tokens and the second team with £300 in book tokens. All four teams are awarded for their effort.
The motivation for this challenge came from the observation that our students are very interested in applying their knowledge in real world projects accompanied by an integrated overview of the practical issues involved, and impressive industriousness. Another point was that since the students have little work experience before they graduate a challenge like this might help them to be more successful in their future career plans.
Under this challenge the students have the opportunity to work on problem solving, as well as apply what they have learned during their programme in real world case studies. A key aspect is that they learn how to research alternative approaches and develop great skills in effectively working with other people.
Although the students are not involved in the first part of the project (i.e. contacting companies, inviting them to submit interesting projects), they are highly involved in the second part. The project is expected to offer students a great opportunity to be involved with real world case studies and learn practices which will benefit their future career and industriousness. Another important aspect is that it allows students to work for well-known institutions as well as collaborate with academic staff in the Department of Statistics and get some invaluable guidance.
Students enjoyed the variety of projects to choose from and the chance to gain experience working on solving real issues. They also appreciated the working environment during the challenge, where they were able to reach out and exchange with academics and professional. The experience gave them more insight into their future career which often coincide with the industry they worked with. This challenge is an opportunity for the staff and PhD students involved to develop closer links with industry, and to work closely with BSc and MSc students on research. It also gives PhD students some experience in mentoring.
The challenge has a very good impact on our students and we plan to continue to run it in the future. We plan to expand the variety of projects available to our students and establish collaborations with industrial partners.
There might be difficulty in getting interesting project proposals on time by partners, so some planning ahead is recommended. The more projects proposals the better as even if not all the proposals are tackled in one year they can be reserved for next year. It is important that there are academics in the Department interested in the project proposals so that they can help students with guidance and advice. It is also important that PhD students are involved so that they offer some support. Another important issue is the funding of the activity, which involves some book tokens for awarding the teams and making the challenge more competitive.