Making a Data Scientist

“I think I’m a data scientist now,” it was with these words La Trobe University PhD student Murray Neuzerling announced his first steps from academic to industry researcher.

Thanks to an AMSIIntern placement with ANZ, stepping over the industry threshold has opened the door for Murray to turn passion into a career. With a fresh perspective and inspired by new challenges “the possibilities of data science within banking and finance.”

While Murray’s story is becoming more common, the rate of industry led collaboration with university research in Australia remains well below the OECD average at only two to three per cent. Something we urgently need to address if we want to ride the innovation wave to prosperity.

As well as selling research as a commercial innovation pathway, equipping researchers with the skills to navigate industry environments remains one of the biggest challenges.

While powerful repositories of theoretical knowledge universities alone do not
produce ‘job-ready’ graduates, something Murray is quick to acknowledge. “Academic study doesn’t equip students for stakeholder engagement or with the skills to present the same material to different audiences with differing perspectives and levels of mathematical knowledge.“ he says.

At the frontline of this challenge, AMSIIntern is proving a powerful partner for many of our leading universities. The national internship program opens vital university-industry pathways and sells research and development as an opportunity too valuable for industry to ignore. Importantly, for students the program offers a perfect platform to plug soft skills gaps and get a taste of what is possible.

“My internship has taught me essential skills, such as how to consult on a business problem and distill it into a question solvable with statistical techniques. It provided exposure to environments where I can develop these soft skills, although I imagine it will take many years to become expert at them,” says Murray.

Additionally, the program’s inclusion of industry- experienced senior academics as project mentors has proven effective in building and fostering university-industry relationships and future research opportunities. For the student, it is like having the ultimate ‘phone a friend’, essential for locking in answers in challenging moments.

“I have been fortunate to be supported by Luke Prendergast. It is comforting to have an experienced statistician only an email or phone call away when you find yourself stuck or a model isn’t quite working,” says Murray.

The benefits run two ways with industry partners from SMEs to big business, reaping the benefits of access to specialised skills needed to overcome innovation barriers.

“Mentors and students offer high-level skills and a new perspective on key business challenges. There is enormous value in a fresh set of eyes with years of experience encountering problems and hunting down solutions,” he says.

As AMSIIntern gets set to expand, it can only be a good thing for Australian industry and students like Murray looking to make academic passions such as pure mathematics add up to future success.


Murray Neuzerling, AMSI Intern with ANZ

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