“Dinner with a Professor” showcases CSML’s community of scholars

Wednesday, May 8, 2019
by Sharon Adarlo

Princeton University’s Center for Statistics and Machine Learning (CSML) is helping educate the next generation of scholars in data-driven methods of research and building a community of collaboration and dialogue.

This was on display at the center’s annual “Dinner with a Professor” event held on April 10 at the Prospect House, where 22 undergraduate students and 14 faculty members gathered for a formal three-course dinner to recognize their participation in the undergraduate Certificate in Statistics and Machine Learning. In the process, students and faculty had the chance to learn about the wide diversity of student and faculty research.

Dinner with Professor event with multiple students and professors conversing at several dinner tables“It was a great chance for students and professors to get to know each other.  The range of intellectual interests in the room was really impressive, with students doing SML independent work in areas ranging from political science to economics to electrical engineering,” said Ryan P. Adams, director of CSML’s Undergraduate Certificate in Statistics and Machine Learning and professor of computer science.

Among the students, eight majors were represented. Many of the students were either graduating seniors or juniors, with one student representing the class of 2021. The professors hailed from 10 different departments and centers, including CSML and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Each person at the dinner introduced themselves with their name, home department and their research focus. The center started the dinner event three years ago as a way for students to interact with each other and talk to their professors beyond the classroom setting.

“I personally really appreciated having that time one-on-one with the professor.”

“I thought it was great,” said Pragya Malik, Class of 2019 and an economics major, who invited Omar Wasow, an assistant professor in Princeton’s Department of Politics. “I personally really appreciated having that time one-on-one with the professor.”

CSML professors and students smiling for camera at dinner table"We spend a lot of time interacting with professors in academic settings. Even out-of-classroom meetings like office hours have the guise of formality to them. The ‘Dinner with a Professor’ event was a great opportunity to break away from some of those academic formalities and talk to our mentors about our lives outside of our independent work and class assignments. I personally find those kinds of conversation about life path, family or what's in the news to be most memorable,” said politics major Matthew Parodi, Class of 2019, who invited Rory Truex, an assistant professor of politics and public affairs.

Peter J. Ramadge, the CSML director, the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering and professor of electrical engineering, was pleased with the successful turnout. Ramadge himself was joined for dinner by three students.

“The dinner is an excellent opportunity to further build ties between different parts of campus and cement the interdisciplinary nature of the center,” said Ramadge. “Data science is an exciting field that grows with importance with every passing year as more people come to realize just how important it is to adopt modern methods of data analysis. We need people from different backgrounds and domains to help develop the data science of the future. I particularly enjoyed the comment from a student that ‘statistics is for everyone.’ CSML’s perspective is to expand that important idea to ensure that statistics and machine learning are for everyone.”

The next big gathering that CSML will be overseeing is the center’s May 14th annual poster session, which showcases the various independent projects undergraduate students have been working on in completion of the SML certificate.