Four Sweet Briar students to attend Google machine learning program

Sarah '20 and Aisha '20 Saleem pictured with Nara Bold Baatar '20
Sarah ’20 and Aisha ’20 Saleem pictured with Nara Bold Baatar ’20 (center)

Four Sweet Briar students — Sarah Saleem ’20, Aisha Saleem ’20, Nara Boldbaatar ’20 and Rosemary Austin ’21 — have been admitted to Google’s 10-week intensive machine learning course that will take place this summer.

The goal of the program is to prepare students for careers in machine learning and data engineering. The four Sweet Briar students will work in teams with students from colleges and universities all over the U.S. and under the mentorship of Google engineers and faculty from the host institutions.

All four students have taken courses in Google’s Applied Computing Series through Sweet Briar’s partnership with the company. Students in the series gain exposure to computer and data science and apply what they’re learning to a variety of fields, including their own majors. In addition, they meet with Google engineers to learn about the tech industry, as well as about internship and job opportunities. The courses are offered in a number of locations. The Saleem sisters and Boldbaatar will take the course at Scripps College in California, while Austin will be at Agnes Scott College in Georgia.

Professor of Mathematical Sciences Raina Robeva, who taught the first course in the Sweet Briar/Google collaboration, Python Programming, observes that, “In field after field, the ability to collect data has exploded, and our society is at a point where these improved technologies have enormous potential to advance progress, but to also be used maliciously, with harmful ethical and social consequences. This underscores the urgent need for education in machine learning and artificial intelligence, while providing awareness and understanding of their societal implications.”

The intensive summer program is very competitive. Stephen Loftus, a visiting assistant professor of mathematical sciences who taught the second class in the Google series, How to Think Like a Data Scientist, says, “These four students are particularly well-suited to attending this program. They have a solid theoretical foundation of how many of these techniques work and knowledge of how to implement these methods. They all are hard workers with a natural inquisitiveness, and are in an excellent position to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Of course, the students are excited about the chance to take a class with Google.

“I am really looking forward to experiencing the real work environment by working in groups on various projects assigned, broadening my knowledge on machine learning and practicing my Python programming skills,” Aisha Saleem says. Her sister, Sarah, thinks her Sweet Briar classes have prepared her well for the challenge of the summer course. “I believe this class will be a stepping stone to be part of Google’s network,” she says.

Boldbaatar is confident the class will help her lay a foundation for future study in biostatistics. “I believe that this summer program, plus my mathematics major, will help me to apply various techniques of computer science, data science and programming language into my research and studies,” she says.

“Data is everywhere today and is vitally important for all walks of life,” says Loftus. “Every company of any size employs an often large number of analysts whose sole goal is to generate insights from the data the company collects. Google has created these courses and programs to train the next generation of these analysts so that they will be employable by any number of companies, including possibly Google itself.”

For more information about this program and Sweet Briar’s partnership with Google, visit sbc.edu/stem/applied-computing-series or email Loftus at sloftus@sbc.edu.