Student Spotlight: Anastasia Menshikova ’18

Anastasia Menshikova ’18 is a rising senior with a lot of ambition! Currently, she works with NASA as a Data Science Intern, where she does in-depth analyses of human trafficking data to spot trends and correlations within that data. In our interview, she shares what it’s like to work on something so important.

Hometown: Riga, Latvia

Class year: 2018

Major: Computer Science

Involvement at school: Employee at Trinfo Cafe, Teacher Assistant, former member of Elemental Movement Dance, and Vice President of the Computer Science Club.

What is it like to work at NASA?

So I’m a data science intern for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. And it’s great! It involves a lot of challenging work, but I’m gaining priceless skills both in terms of computer science and general communication. I’m also gaining skills in group work, since I work in a team with other JPL employees. Even though I’m an intern, I am considered a full member of the team and I get to work on real-life projects. All of the work, due to the governmental nature of the place, are aimed at aiding various governmental institutions, and so I actually get to contribute toward helping solve real-life issues, like human trafficking in the US. The fact that my contribution might be helpful in tackling human trafficking is very inspiring and it definitely makes me feel like all of my hard work up to this point has been worth it. Doing coding for school or for your own projects is one thing, working in a team and resolving national issues is another.

What else do you do there?

I do data science/machine learning, and one of my main projects involves improving my previously created sentiment analysis parser, creating improved machine learning models and doing some very in-depth analysis of human trafficking data to spot trends and correlations within the data. It’s all part of a big project called MEMEX which is governed by DARPA. My other project is for the department of homeland security, and it involves detecting technical standards within statements of work and project proposals that get submitted to the department.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve gotten to do as a result of your internship?

One of the most exciting things for me personally, as I mentioned earlier, is working on something that actually contributes to the betterment of people’s lives (by helping to tackle human trafficking)–but also, because of that, I went to Washington DC for a few days to the DARPA headquarters for a hackathon, that is also aimed at working towards the human trafficking project.

How has this internship helped your career goals?

This internship has definitely helped me to explore different areas of computer science, develop more passion for my major, and actually realize that there are so many incredible things I can work on because of computer science!

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