What is 2019 Rewind?
I know, this sounds like something people usually do when New Year’s Eve is approaching which means I’m already quite late. However, I’m one of those who very rarely manage to find some time to just stop and think, to have a break in their busy, tight routine. Yet, as part of my 2020 resolutions, I did include the will to schedule some extra “recovery” time: stop hurrying up for a while, think about the recent past experiences and elaborate on some findings and learnings out of them. Therefore, I decided I would launch a series of posts named 2019 Rewind, and today I’ll start off with my MSc graduation day. The whole point of 2019 Rewind is to go through some of the best memories, moments, trips, experiences that made 2019 unique and outstanding and that made me the person I am right now. I would do my best to include reflections and thoughts and eventually elaborate on my personal opinions. Maybe something like writing a letter to my old self, but with a touch of inspirational and motivational thoughts-sharing. I’m curious to see how far this initiative goes, but without further ado, let’s jump straight into the first post.
Should I call it the end or a new beginning?
Almost one year later, I’m hereby sharing some insights about what represented the end of a relatively long period of my life. On February 4th, 2019 I graduated from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) with a Master’s Degree in Digital Media Engineering and a specialization in Data Science. A study path started in September 2016 yet it still feels like yesterday when I first arrived in Copenhagen as a foreign student on August 19th, the same year. Within 5 semesters since then, I did not only find myself with an extra piece of paper in my hands. A single post wouldn’t be enough to describe the variety of skills I acquired and the experiences I had in those 2.5 years. For now, I can only show appreciation to DTU, Copenhagen, the city that hosted me all this time, the Danish society I’ve learned how to be part of, and last but not least, the loads of people who surrounded me and contributed to making my days brighter even when almost no light was physically visible.
Sharing feelings from graduation day
Graduation day for me was definitely a blast. In DTU, traditionally, one would actually graduate on a day and subsequently take part in the graduation ceremony, which takes place twice a year and gathers hundreds of students who all graduated in the preceding 6 months. Therefore, in principle graduation day is when you defend your Master’s Thesis in front of your supervisor(s) and external examiner(s). I have observed that not everybody has the same expectations on how to spend graduation day. Some would keep it more confidential (maybe also because they have to), while others would celebrate and cheer with friends and family. Luckily, I ended up in the latter category. I was so happy to be surrounded by some of my best friends, mostly people living in Copenhagen and a few friends from my hometown in Italy, Milan, who took advantage of the occasion to come and visit the city. I don’t want this to sound too cheesy, but it would have not been the same if I didn’t have anybody that day to share my happiness and feeling of satisfaction. It’s empowering when other people are made part of probably the very first, biggest accomplishments of your career, as it’s a big proof that there are people that actually care standing there for you, with you. When I defended my thesis, I felt like it was the very last step to demonstrate that my efforts and sacrifices were worth it. Hence, sharing that moment with my fellow mates, friends and family was definitely what I mostly appreciated that day.
When one door closes, another opens
All this sounds good, but… you might wonder what came next. I had no plans to further continue my academic career at that point, therefore my MSc Graduation Day marked the end of a 5.5 years long period of high-level education, spent across two different countries, from Politecnico di Milano to DTU. Given that at the time when I graduated I was employed part-time at Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen, I had already figured out my next career step. I started as a full-time Software Engineer less than a month later, but I’ll talk more about this in a separate post.
So what about data science?
If you had the time and bravery to keep reading until now, I will only steal a few extra minutes to quickly provide you with a couple of insights about my Master Thesis project:
The Role of Divisive Topics in Network StructureA large scale analysis of controversies on Twitter.
I want to highlight the relevance of social media platforms nowadays with regard to shaping personalities and strengthening ideologies by easing the spread of news and information. However, we have observed a surging threat for the health of our democratic societies, since phenomena and events such as ideological polarization and controversies are every day on the agenda, fostered by political division. In short, I have carried out a big-data analysis on a Twitter dataset to identity further proofs of ideological polarization and how it embodies Twitter users strongly concerned about controversial topics. As you may have inferred from this short introduction, the background and context are strongly socio-political. My role, as a soon-to-be data scientist at that time, was to leverage tools for big data analysis to perform data mining, extract statistics, provide unusual perspectives and proofs to strengthen existing hypotheses about ideological polarization. If you’re curious to read more about this, please don’t hesitate to have a look into my open-source thesis resources on GitHub. Furthermore, if terms like filter bubbles, echo chambers, network analysis, graphs, sentiment analysis, machine learning don’t scare you, I believe you will enjoy reading through some of my results. And if you really, really care about all this stuff and want to engage in a conversation, drop me a message!
Thank you for your time and I hope to have you again as a reader for 2019 Rewind, Chapter 2! Meanwhile, feel free to explore some other cool stuff on my website!