Research Internship – Work and Life Balance

The research internship at EPFL marked one of my top experience during my college life. I was able to devote myself into rigorous academic research while enjoying things in Switzerland. I was most impressed with Swiss style work and life balance.

The research project I worked on is in operation research lead by Professor Weber, in the Chair of Operations, Economics and Strategy and his PhD student Michael Mark. The problem we tackled is about credit (debt) collection and machine learning algorithms to learn the optimal action for example, sending reminders, writing letters, making phone calls and or initiating a lawsuit in order to maximize the collection amount. A problem with the learning algorithm in our problem is that the machine sometimes returns uninterpretable policy which may not be understandable or even usable by human decision makers. We proposed a modified algorithm that incorporates a constraint during the learning process so that the algorithm will be adapting an interpretable policy.

I was able to join a few lunches with other PhD students from different academic area and learn about what they study and their personal experience. It’s fascinating to me that people from different places, speak different languages but are working on the same thing in EPFL. It was such a diverse environment that helps facilitate mental engagements.

Aside from lab, I was able to balance my life, enjoying living in Switzerland.
I frequently biked around Lake Geneva, made stops by many of the old castles in places such as Morges and Montreux. I have also been to the Alps Mountain for hiking and skiing. I was lucky that there was abundant snow, which is not something common California (where I am from). I would like to highlight one of my visits to a not so popular place but I was really impressed, Les Mines De Sel, the salt mine at Bex. The salts here are dug from stones in a mine. The place was a ocean millions years ago, after the shell movements, part the ocean was enclosed by the Alps mountain and as a result, the water evaporated and left the salt into the mountain. For the past hundreds of years, people have been digging this “white gold” and supplying it for Switzerland.

Again, I would like to appreciate EPFL, Professor Weber and everyone for having me during this experience. It was a wonderful experience in terms of both academic and life! I will be back!

Here is a picture taken during my hike!

Kyle Huanxi Liu, University of California San Diego

Chair of Operations, Economics & Strategy, EPFL

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