A Week in the Life: Online MSDS Student, Suraj Kunthu

Suraj Kunthu
April 7, 2023

Suraj KunthuI am a second semester graduate student in the part-time, online Master of Science in Data Science program at the University of Virginia School of Data Science. I am also a Process Engineer at a chemical manufacturing facility in Richmond, Virginia.

As a full-time working professional and part-time online graduate student, time management is always on my mind and is something I am still perfecting.


Weekly Schedule

Monday through Friday is filled with work, and on Wednesday (for this semester) I have classes at night. The rest of the time I have available is split between studying/homework, exercising, spending time with family/friends/my dog and other hobbies. My typical weekly schedule looks like this:

Suraj weekly schedule

Finding balance can be hard sometimes. Especially while working in a 24/7 on-call manufacturing environment. I do not always have the flexibility I need; however, it’s not impossible so long as you ask for help when you need it. The professors all understand that we have full-time jobs and can be accommodating whether it's missing class or needing extensions on assignments. Effective communication goes a long way!

The Online MSDS Program and Professors

My experience with the online MSDS program has been wonderful! I am learning a lot and I am able apply what I learn in school at work. Examples include developing Python scripts to generate business intelligence reports, building new data pipelines, and helping educate others in a traditional Microsoft Excel-only business.

Sample data pipeline

The professors are knowledgeable and are always willing to help when asked. The cohort style of learning is also great. I feel as though I am part of a group experiencing this program together, successes and struggles included. To me, the assignments are the right amount of challenge. In the first semester, I’ll admit the first few weeks were relatively easy since I had taken some classes in Computer Science and Statistics while earning my Bachelor's in mechanical engineering.

The speed of the classes can trip you up if you’re not staying on pace (which may or may not have happened to me a couple of times). Overall, the content and structure of the courses aid in making sure you understand the material by applying it in practice problems and projects. I’m interested in machine learning and building artificial neural networks, so I’m looking forward to the classes in the later semesters.

Personal Life and Fun

Outside of my job and school, it’s important to blow off some steam every now and then to help keep the balance of what can sometimes feel like constant work. Living in Richmond, Virginia provides me with plenty of restaurants, bars, breweries, and other activities where I hang out with my friends. If my parents see the picture below, I'm drinking apple juice.

Suraj Kunthu