Since I didn't blog this summer, it's felt like forever since I've written one of these. Now that I'm back, I'm excited to share all that I did when I was away! One of the Dartmouth-related experiences I had was conducting research with a Tuck professor I had met during my winter term. A lot of people do research at Dartmouth, and it's because professors are happy to involve undergraduates with what they're doing.
This summer, I worked on an operations management research project that looked at how medical billing codes could be improved to avoid fraud or exploitation. Going into my Freshman summer, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. COVID had moved my internship to a remote setting, and I wasn't sure how much I could travel to see my friends. I decided to email a few of my favorite professors and see if they had any opportunities for me. Within a week of asking around, I found a lot of interesting projects. With COVID going on, I thought the medical billing code project was especially interesting, and so I decided to sign on.
Looking back at my research experience this summer, what stands out to me is how many new skills I picked up. Our research team consisted of two Tuck professors, a recent Tuck graduate and a postdoc research fellow, so I came in feeling intimated as the only undergraduate student. In fact, during one of our first meetings, I was completely lost on what everyone else was talking about. While everyone was referring to specific passages and ideas, I didn't even know documents we were looking at. During the meeting, I was assigned a few tasks to do, which mainly was to sort our medical codes into datasets using a statistical computing program called R. Although I had no experience with R, I quickly confirmed that I would be able to handle it. In my mind, I wanted to get out of that meeting as quickly as possible before anyone realized I didn't really know what was going on.
From there, I began researching how to code in R. Since I only started taking computer science at Dartmouth, I wasn't very confident in learning a new programming language. However, after going through several books and websites, I found myself growing more comfortable with R. The team was especially helpful, as they sent me great resources and agreed to 1-on-1 meetings so I could get a better idea of what we were doing. Over the summer, I saw my anxiety grow into confidence, as I began to enjoy my research. One of my proudest moments from this summer was when I developed a program that was able to sort our medical billing codes accurately.
Over the course of this summer, I refined and changed my program so that it could do everything we needed it to. I also picked up new skills on Excel and learned about new concepts in graph theory and statistical analysis. Through this experience, I have learned a new programming language, picked up new analysis techniques, and worked with amazingly supportive and bright people. It's rare to find an opportunity where you not only get to do practical work, but have so many people invested in your success. Doing research was definitely a highlight of my summer, and I'm happy that so many undergraduates get this opportunity at Dartmouth. Personally, I'll be looking for more research projects in the future, where I can learn more things and pick up more new skills