Showcase Lets Duke Health Data Science Interns Shine

April 25, 2018

Faculty, staff, and students from across Duke University and Duke University Health System recently gathered for the Health Data Science (HDS) Internship Showcase. Held at the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative Building on the afternoon of April 12th, this showcase provided a platform for ten graduate student interns to present methods and initial findings from the HDS demonstration projects that they have been contributing to as part of the internship program, and to discuss possible future directions for their work.

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Duke Health Data Science Interns & Mentors at the April 2018 Showcase

Michael Pencina, Director of Biostatistics for Duke Clinical Research Institute and a Duke Forge founding faculty member, gave the opening remarks, emphasizing his excitement over how much the program has achieved in a short amount of time, and how he believes it is something “we should promote and explore on the national level.”

The Duke Clinical Research Institute’s Center for Predictive Medicine partners with Duke Forge to pair graduate students participating in the Health Data Science Internship Program with staff biostatistician mentors. Under the guidance of their mentors, interns are integrated into Forge health data science teams to contribute to demonstration projects and at the same time gain real-world experience. As Forge Principal Data Scientist Ricardo Henao explains, integrating the HDS interns into teams working on real HDS demonstration projects helps to “get students familiar with as many aspects of data science as possible.” He goes on to note, however, that the experience is more than just learning about the specifics of data science.

“We want them to gain a broad range of skill sets that will prepare them for the future.”


The HDS mentors have played a key role in the success of the internship program. Lisa Wruck, director of the Center for Predictive Medicine, noted that “the mentors have really brought their creativity and enthusiasm, and have developed a comprehensive program that has really provided some great opportunities for the interns.”

Qi (Dylan) Liu, a member of the Junior Intern cohort, recently was paired with a Duke Forge project that aims to develop a natural language processing data science model. Despite only being on the project for a few months, he says he has “already learned a lot of useful skills concerning not only programming and deep learning algorithms, but also the way to collaborate and communicate with team members more efficiently.”

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The Senior Interns, who will be graduating from the program on April 27, have been a part of the Duke Forge demonstration projects for the past year and are helping to integrate the Junior Interns into the project teams. Muyao Sun, a Senior Intern working on the NICU predictive modeling demonstration project, appreciates that the HDS Intern Program has helped her to better understand the management of complex projects. She says the program has also “improved my soft skills, such as teamwork and communication skills, which helps me to successfully interact with others in the workplace.”

Amy Herring, co-director of Duke Forge, closed out the evening by expressing gratitude for all the hard work and dedication that the interns and their mentors have put in to the demonstration projects. “It’s impressive to see what they have done in the scope of just a year, and even in some cases only three months,” said Herring. “I’m really impressed and looking forward to seeing what this new class of interns does going forward.”