Student Spotlight: Microsoft Practicum Team

Three months into their eight-month practicum projects, students in NC State’s Master of Science in Analytics (MSA) Class of 2021 are deep in the throes of data analysis, applying the techniques they are concurrently learning in the classroom to solve their sponsors’ business problems. In the coming weeks, they will work with Institute faculty and staff to practice and fine-tune the midpoint presentations they’ll deliver to their sponsoring organizations in December.

This month, we’d like you to meet the Microsoft practicum team. The multinational technology company, headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is a first-time practicum sponsor for the Institute. The project deals with Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through Microsoft-managed data centers. The practicum team is working with Azure’s Customer Growth Analytics team to provide insight into the journey that customers undergo when requiring technical support.

“It has been incredibly rewarding to continuously learn from each team member’s individual strengths and personalities,” said Thu Le, team lead. “Virtually collaborating on a large scale project is a new challenge, but I’m excited to continue navigating through it with a team that brings so much to the table. Their ability to adapt to new problems, learn new technologies, and laugh through it all has made this experience so wonderful!”

While an undergraduate student in his native India, Ashwin Balasubramaniam used SQL to develop a lab inventory management application which his university’s industrial engineering department still employs today. In his previous graduate studies at NC State, Ashwin cultivated his interest in data science through research in natural language processing and artificial intelligence. Ashwin enjoys spending time outdoors, bouldering or hiking, and has summited peaks in the Himalayas. He is also a Redditor and self-proclaimed meme expert.

Paul Dennis holds three degrees in psychology: a bachelor’s from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s and PhD from NC State. A Renaissance man, Paul’s studies have ranged from wilderness therapy to socioemotional development to the effects of aging on language networks and speech. He worked as a researcher at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and as an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke. In his free time, Paul enjoys cooking, gardening, camping with his wife and three children, playing guitar, and traveling internationally.

A drive for continuous improvement inspired Thu Le’s undergraduate studies in industrial engineering at NC State, and a desire to effect positive change through creative collaboration sparked her interest in analytics. During a process engineering internship at Dell, she developed a dynamic database that generated dashboards, reports, and forecasts to aid senior management in labor headcount decisions. Whether playing pickup volleyball or cooking a Vietnamese meal for friends, Thu loves bringing others together and creating a culture to share ideas.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Florida State University, Mckayla Lein began working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Durham, NC. There she served on a team developing the Integrated Science Assessments of Criteria Air Pollutants, and taught herself R programming to perform data calculations for a paper she co-authored on cancer risk from hazardous air pollutants in 27 cities. Mckayla spends her free time traveling, hiking, playing board and video games, and listening to podcasts.

As an undergraduate computer science student at NC State, Rohan Prabhu interned with SAS and IBM, acquiring experience in Agile application development and implementing automated testing. During a co-op at Johnson & Johnson, he used Tableau to analyze search data and presented actionable insights to help business leaders with sales and advertising decisions. For fun, Rohan enjoys reading nonfiction, honing his culinary skills, playing soccer and basketball, and cheering on the Carolina Panthers.