After the ESTEEM summer class session, there was a general agreement among students that the summer had to be the toughest period throughout the entire ESTEEM year. Fast forward to the week prior to fall break and that agreement could not have been more wrong. With the ESTEEM Thesis Oral Technology exam, mid-term exams, and other assignments, the week before Fall Break seemed to be the ultimate week. Below I will share how I managed to survive an intense week which is probably a typical experience for most ESTEEM students.
For some background, I am working on a Founder’s Idea for my ESTEEM Capstone Thesis project. That simply means that I chose (and was approved) to work on my own idea rather than a faculty or industry sponsored project. My Founder’s Idea is Ctructure, an effort to collect and provide easy access to the most accurate and up-to-date legal information on commercial and business law in Africa. My inspiration to work on Ctructure came two years ago when I was drafting a business contract for a Rwandan startup I co-founded with a friend of mine. The process of finding the right legal information was so laborious that I thought there must be an easier way to do it. That easier way wasn’t there; I later found out that even lawyers had to spend an insane amount of time on legal research.
My first step to implementing Ctructure was to take the Natural Language Processing (NLP) course taught by Prof. David Chiang from the Computer Science and Engineering department at Notre Dame. After completing the course, given my background in chemistry (bachelor’s and master’s degrees), I realized that I needed to learn a lot before I could implement Ctructure. That leads me to my week in ESTEEM before the fall break.
In additional to the regular ESTEEM coursework, I’m currently taking three tech electives – Data Science, Topics in Statistics, and Databases – and auditing the Legal Research course from Notre Dame’s Law School. Every time I attend a lecture in these courses I feel that I am one step closer to the fully implemented Ctructure. In Data Science, I’ve been learning various ways to extract useful information or insights from huge datasets. For Ctructure, for example, this could mean applying a classification algorithm to thousands of legal documents and classifying them into a few categories which would help lawyers to find a needed legal document rapidly. In the statistics course, I have been learning about logistic regression, which is a statistical model to analyze data sets in which the response variable is categorical. In the case of Ctructure, logistic regression could be used to confirm whether or not a court decision is outdated (after surveying lawyers) which is yes/no or true/false type of response. In the database course, as one may guess, I’m learning how to store and retrieve data efficiently from databases. This course is highly relevant to my founder’s idea; in fact, I’m implementing Ctructure as the course’s final project alongside three amazing team members (Kat, Samson, and Yun). Finally, through the Legal Research course, I am learning about the different types of legal sources and what matters to legal professionals when conducting legal research.
Coming back to my week before the fall break, I had to prepare and take midterm exams for all my tech electives, make a presentation about the market research and technology behind Ctructure and shoot a video for the Leadership course. The presentation was essentially a defense for Chapter 1 and 2 of the ESTEEM Thesis, and my audience consisted of Mr. Dustin Mix (thesis advisor), Prof. David Chiang (faculty advisor), and Mr. Dwight King (Law School’s Research Librarian).
Going forward, I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from my tech electives and conducting customer interviews to better understand the needs of legal professionals working on Africa-related matters. ESTEEM has been quite a journey.