ADACS Internship Story: Ella Wang

Ella Wang undertook an internship with ADACS for three months from Nov. 2020 to Jan. 2021. She describes her experience:

At the time that I undertook my internship with ADACS, I was at the end of the first year of my PhD.  Previously, I had done a lot of programming – as my research is simulation based – however, most of my work had been conducted in isolation and I had no experience programming as part of a team. I did the internship remotely but got the chance to visit the team in Melbourne after lockdown restrictions lifted.

There were many projects available for me to work on.  In the end, based upon my interests and skills, I chose to work on project involving the VAST survey’s data pipeline.  The VAST survey analyses images from the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) searching for transient sources.  The VAST survey is planned to run for at least another 10 years, making memory and computational scalability primary concerns. My original goal in the project was to improve memory efficiency of the VAST data reduction pipeline.  I spent much of this effort developing tests to make sure that this and future development can be conducted safely and reliably.

I did my internship remotely, but I still had ample opportunities to talk to the team and learn what they were working on. These conversations mostly happened during stand-ups, where everyone would talk about what they would work on during the day. I find that stand-ups were a good way to keep my day focused and to learn a bit about what everyone else was working on. Every two weeks would be a sprint.  At the end of every sprint, there is a reflection and planning meeting. These meetings were helpful for solving issues to improve productivity and to prioritise tasks for the next sprint. There were weekly meetings where the different teams would catch up and overall progress was discussed. All of these meetings were good opportunities for social interaction during the lockdown.

From the internship, I learnt a lot about software development in team settings. It was quite eye opening to see how workflows help cope with the chaos of multiple people working on the same product; some of which is also applicable outside of team settings and I will incorporate into my own work. In addition, I spent some time learning some tools that I wouldn’t have come into contact with otherwise. My research doesn’t make use of databases or GUIs much. This internship gave me the chance to learn some SQL and Django. Even though I likely won’t use these in the next few years, having a broader knowledge base to draw from is always good.

Through this internship, I learnt valuable skills which are applicable both inside and outside of research. The work environment at ADACS is friendly and welcoming, I felt comfortable approaching others for help. I would recommend doing an ADACS internship for those who want to improve their programming skills, and gain experience with software development in a team setting.

Since completing her internship with ADACS, the VAST pipeline has been publicly released:

https://vast-survey.org/vast-pipeline/
https://github.com/askap-vast/vast-pipeline/

with the ADACS contributions (including Ella’s) acknowledged here.

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