Study Abroad at UCLA

8 October 2020

Over summer 2019 Dominik spent 9 weeks in Los Angeles, California studying at UCLA. Read on to hear about his experience of a short term mobility.


Over summer 2019 I’ve spent mirthful 9 weeks in Los Angeles, California. During this
time I was undertaking the research at the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics
(IPAM) located on the spacious UCLA campus. The research project was the part of the Research in Industrial Projects (RIPS) programme which is organized by IPAM for already more than a decade. During RIPS, approximately 40 students work in teams of four on real-world industrial challenges posted by companies like Google, Amazon or AirForce. Research students are supported by the academic and industrial mentors ensuring that no one falls by the wayside during the programme.
My team has tackled the interdisciplinary applied maths project comprising linear
programming, first-order optimization methods and reinforcement learning.

Its purpose was to design, implement and evaluate the performance of algorithms sorting out the industrial challenge of online product recommendation posed by the Alibaba Group.Our effort in resolving the challenge bore fruits and we flew to the Silicon Valley where we presented results of the research during the visit in the Alibaba office in Sunnyvale, CA.
The social interactions with the other RIPS participants were a crucial part of the
programme. We all stayed in the university accommodation and discussed endlessly
during dinners. We spent a lot of time together, interacting during daily ‘tea-time’,
playing volleyball and weekend trips to a variety of destinations including Las Vegas
and Malibu. I have established many new friendships and met with like-minded people of whom an overwhelming majority would like to further pursue their research interests by undertaking a PhD. Furthermore, during weekends we were encouraged by the programme organizers to experience a variety of fun activities in Southern California.

Personally, I have enjoyed the most surfing on Venice Beach and hiking/mountain biking in the wilderness of numerous parks neighbouring LA.
I believe that this summer’s experience plays a pivotal role in both my degree and
planned career path. I have developed my mathematical and coding prowess. I have
improved my research and communication skills. I have greatly benefited from
interaction with the excellent students working in my team.

I have got exposed to the U.S. higher education system which in many ways quite significantly differs from the U.K. one. On top of this, I have met highly-enthusiastic mavericks sharing similar
passions with myself. Overall, I strongly believe that it is worthwhile to undertake short-term study abroad as it may be beneficial for both the academic and social life!


By Dominik Kufel