Inspired by AI and driven by data
Meet Yiji Suk, an undergraduate Data Science and Artificial Intelligence student from Nanyang Technological University (NTU). We spoke to Yiji about his academic journey, why he chose his major, and how he landed himself a spot at Nanyang Technological University.
At the beginning of our discussion, Yiji requested we look back in time and reflect on his high school years when he first touched down in Singapore. “ I lived 15 to 16 years in South Korea before leaving to study in Singapore. In high school, I studied an international curriculum called the International Baccalaureate, and one of the subjects I chose was computer science.” Without understanding this field, Yiji was put in a position where he had to build software from scratch. Despite this initial challenge, this student gained knowledge surrounding the subject by creating a student knowledge management application. This project was the turning point for Yiji as he knew he needed to pursue this pathway. “This project marked a pivotal moment for me as it unveiled a passion for dissecting and creatively solving intricate problems using modern technology. This discovery propelled me to delve deeper into this fascinating field of study.”
This student told Cybernews Academy why he chose NTU over other universities in and around Singapore. “Ultimately, Singapore was my initial choice for university education, so I had two options: Nanyang Technological University or the National University of Singapore.” Yiji chose NTU because of its customizable curriculum that allowed him to study Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. “There is a field of teaching computer science and data science at NUS, but there isn’t a field specializing in artificial intelligence from the beginning of undergraduate education.” Yiji explained that artificial intelligence is a commonly offered degree at a master’s or graduate level but not at the undergraduate level. “I appreciated that NTU allows undergraduate students to skim the surface of artificial intelligence.”
Computer vs. Data
Yiji explained why he chose this field over computer science when applying for his major. “Many people ask why I chose data science and AI over computer science. The reason is that I started in app development and took a one-year gap to learn new skills. I had the opportunity to study machine learning and engage in various application projects. My main motivation behind learning this new topic was my passion to learn more about this attractive subject and my desire to build an AI solution.” Yiji saw an excellent opportunity to integrate artificial intelligence with the existing computer science field. Yiji looked at the current software industry and saw that the user experience and overall interaction experience could be optimized. “The user experience on most existing software solutions appears disorganized, and I observed places that could be optimized. I wanted to learn more about machine-powered decision-making, so I chose my field of study.”
Optimized and specialized
Yiji elaborated on the structure of his degree and told us of his experience studying data science and artificial intelligence. Yiji’s course is optimized for beginners – however, you must have a keen interest in computing and mathematics. “Undergraduate data science combines 50% computer science and 50% mathematics, mainly in probability and statistics.” The course covers data science and artificial intelligence fundamentals, yet it feels more specialized than computer science due to the emphasis on the two disciplines. “In our course, we dive into the topic deeper each year.” NTU allows its students to expand on the curriculum and encourages continuous learning and development. This student explained that his course is specifically designed for students who already have a primary field of domain knowledge. “My course is a further time saver for students who already know what they want to focus on at university” due to the specialized nature of this undergraduate degree.
Student life at NTU
Student life at NTU is both diverse and exciting. “I would say that there are a lot of technological clubs and societies that operate throughout the campus. So, apart from academic fields, students can interact with different people through clubs and societies.” Yiji mentioned an incredible NTU-operated program called the Student Entrepreneurship Program that provides academic and financial support to students willing to work on exciting startup ideas. “I appreciate the diverse range of opportunities facilitated by NTU as countless computing activities produced by the computer science department,” making it an enjoyable environment to engage with.
According to Yiji, one of the best things about the data science and artificial intelligence course at NTU is the collaborative nature and the approach to learning. “I love that we interact with different peers by working together on projects and getting real practical experience. We don’t just engage with a singular area of theoretical knowledge. We look at the fundamentals of the discipline while putting it into practice.” Another aspect that makes his course so versatile is the amount of freedom afforded to NTU students. Students can decide what they want to pursue while studying. “For example, in a recent software engineering course, only the fundamentals of the disciplines are being taught, and it’s up to the students whether they want to learn about building solutions using programming languages or use different tools they want to interact with.” Yiji expressed that this high degree of freedom comes with great responsibility. However, students are entirely motivated as they can learn whatever fields or concepts they want.
This budding entrepreneur told Cybernews Academy about the practical projects he worked on at university. A previous project Yiji worked on was a data-centric e-learning platform that provides tailored learning experiences for students and effective resource management for educators. “I saw the potential of large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-3 to comprehend user’s activity data and provide customized experiences.” That’s where he came up with the idea for his e-learning platform, ‘IO,’ an optimized approach to learning. “The platform actively analyzes individual student performances and classifies different learning approaches for individual students. We also have a solution built for teachers that focuses on optimization.”
In the future, Yiji would like to build a solution that entirely changes and optimizes user experience. Companies like OpenAI and Apple inspire this student because they have changed how we interact with technology. In the future, Yiji plans to work on the many start-up projects he has underway. To end our discussion, Yiji gave our readers friendly advice. "Everyone should find one area to dedicate their 24 hours. You're set if you find that area and pursue that degree at university. Now, you have to pursue your passion."