8 December 2017: Building capstone projects on internship experiences

By Regina Marie Lee | Images provided by Pareen Chaudhari and Lai Ying Tong

Over the past summer, Yale-NUS students embarked on diverse of internships to develop their professional interests and skills. Some went away inspired to continue studying a specific area in their final-year capstone projects. After her exposure to the world of financial technology (FinTech), Pareen Chaudhari (Class of 2018) (pictured above) was driven to investigate the disruptive effect of FinTech firms on traditional banks.

At Telenor Digital Businesses, Pareen researched FinTech startups in the Southeast Asian region. She reported on their strategies and services, and made recommendations for potential private equity investments. For example, she found that FinTech startups are finding new ways to assess the risk profiles and lend money to customers in Southeast Asia who may not have a credit score—something that traditional banks may not do. Pareen also had the opportunity to attend the biggest technology conference in Asia, RISE Hong Kong, and meet with many startups and financial institutions.

“I found it very interesting that FinTech firms were competing with traditional services that banks provide,” said Pareen. “As someone interested in working in the financial services industry, I also wanted to know what challenges the industry faces.” For her Economics capstone, she is analysing quantitative data on traditional bank revenue, to examine the effect of FinTech firms in Southeast Asia. Currently, she is finding ways to control for other factors that affect bank revenue, such as regulatory and business cycle changes. After graduation, Pareen hopes to work in the financial services industry.

Pareen’s liberal arts education had put her in good stead for her internship, something much appreciated by her company. “Pareen distinguished herself with her ability to quickly and intelligently digest large amounts complicated information – both about deal structures, as well as technologies – a skill she undoubtedly honed in her Liberal Arts curriculum at Yale-NUS. In fact, her direct supervisors felt comfortable enough with Pareen’s professionalism to take her to meetings with senior investment bankers and startup CEO’s almost from her first week,” shared Genevieve Godwin, Head of HR, Telenor Digital Businesses.

Lai Ying Tong (Class of 2018) (pictured above) also had the chance to build on her internships for her capstone project. A Physical Sciences major, she is using machine learning to develop an algorithm that can predict electrical properties of 2D materials. Doing so would allow material engineers to easily deduce the energy band gap of a material from measurable properties, rather than carry out a complex and costly process using density functional theory.

Ying Tong was inspired by her work across multiple internships. She learnt about the problem of predicting energy band gaps as a research intern at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Centre for Advanced 2D Materials Research in her freshmen and sophomore year. Last summer, while interning at the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) in Singapore, she was inspired to use data analysis to solve established problems. “At CLC I was studying complex systems and how lower-order interactions that seem random on a micro scale actually have relationships at a system level,” she said. She hopes to find those macro-level relationships by analysing the data on different materials.

At her current part-time internship at Bambu, a FinTech firm, Ying Tong uses machine learning to create wealth management products. “I learnt the theory in my Machine Learning class and put it into practice at Bambu and in my capstone,” she added.

Ying Tong said she is excited about data analysis because it is a ‘bottom-up endeavour’. “The Physics courses that I have studied thus far rely on known analytical solutions to old problems. Now we get into the space where we may not fully understand the theory but we have a lot of data and tools to analyse it,” said Ying Tong, who hopes to work with big data and machine learning after graduation.

Both Pareen and Ying Tong said they picked up things quickly at work with the help of supportive mentors. Ying Tong, who is doing her first machine-learning internship, said she was lucky to work closely with her supervisor. “I have time to figure things out and cross-reference my understanding with his,” she said. For Pareen, who interned at a bank in her sophomore year, the penultimate year internship was a chance to do something different. “I was open to doing things I was unfamiliar with, like technology, because I knew I had a support system,” she added.


If you are an employer looking to host an intern at your organization or just want to find out more, please email the Yale-NUS Centre for International & Professional Experience at cipe@yale-nus.edu.sg.