After earning a Bachelor’s in Software Engineering with a minor in Quantitative Finance from Stevens Institute of Technology in May, Austin Luo decided to spend the summer expanding his knowledge of machine learning and how to apply it in the social sciences. “In the past, while studying in Shanghai and reviewing case studies of large corporations integrating technology into their models, I realized I had a passion for sociology,” Luo said in a recent interview. His interest in both technology and sociology led Luo to Columbia Summer, where he took courses focused on quantitative methods and machine learning. By August, Luo began his new role as a Program Manager at Microsoft, where he plans to apply the skills and ideas he acquired in the program.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your decision to take a course at Columbia.
I wanted to take courses at Columbia specifically because the Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences (QMSS) program allowed me to finally pursue a subject at the intersection of STEM and sociology. The QMSS program allows me to explore and nurture my inner passion for sociology while developing my skills in technology. This summer I took two courses, Machine Learning Social Sciences by Professor Michael Parrott and Natural Language Processing by Professor Patrick Houlihan, both of which I really enjoyed.
How was the learning experience?
The learning experience was different from what I had been accustomed to before 2020. The courses were offered both in person and online. I made the decision to attend every single class in person and thoroughly enjoyed them. Columbia faculty members tried their best to provide us with resources and to maintain a high quality of education even as the city was still navigating reopening.
How do you plan to apply what you learned to your career going forward?
I accepted a full-time position at Microsoft as a Program Manager. As part of the Azure Compute division, I will be working with their Cloud and Artificial Intelligence teams—I could not be more eager and ecstatic to begin! I plan to apply the new problem-solving methods and technical skills I learned at Columbia to my upcoming projects at Microsoft.
Were you able to participate in any co-curricular activities or events this summer with Columbia?
I got involved with several of Columbia’s co-curricular groups and affiliates, including Eye to Eye mentoring, the Columbia Bartending Agency (yes, you can take mixology classes!), and the Columbia University chapter of the Global Research and Consulting Group. I am now the Chapter Leader of Eye to Eye and look forward to promoting awareness about the club's exciting initiatives for the community. I signed up for the Columbia Bartending Agency classes and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an introductory deep dive into bartending. The Global Research and Consulting Group closely aligned with my values and I wanted to share my experiences with the chapter to help contribute to a meaningful cause.
Overall, what was the highlight of the program?
The highlight of the program was the opportunity to take my classes in person. I loved every second of my interactions with professors as well as my peers on campus. The learning environment and depth of material being conveyed in a compact timeline added an exciting challenge that I enjoyed. Overall, I cannot wait for the next time I will be in class whether that is next week or next year!