Northwestern MSIT Student Has Unique Data Scientist Experience

Nathan Cao reflects on how he applied lessons learned in the Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program to his time with Oshkosh Corporation.

Oshkosh Corporation designs and builds specialty trucks and truck bodies that are used for access equipment, military defense, fire and emergency, and commercial usage around the world. From heavy-duty tow trucks and airport snowplows to broadcast vans and cement trucks, the portfolio of vehicles designed and manufactured by Oshkosh is wide-ranging. 

This past summer, Nathan Cao — a full-time student in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program — got a behind-the-scenes look at Oshkosh and all it has to offer as a data scientist with the corporation. In that role, Cao was tasked with performing machine-learning engineering, statistical modeling, model performance assessment and code review. 

"The applied machine learning focus in this position fit my career path very well," Cao said. "Also, my department had an internal consulting function to executive management and the IoT department, which exposed me to a large scope of exciting use cases."

Oshkosh's scope truly is large and vast. The corporation separates its products into four separate categories:

    • Access Equipment: This category includes JLG Industries, Inc. and Jerr-Dan Corporation. JLG is focused on aerial products like boom lifts that allow workers to access hard-to-reach locations, while Jerr-Dan has defined towing and recovery standards for more than half a century.
    • Defense: Oshkosh develops tactical vehicles to military and security forces around the globe. Oshkosh has designed, tested and manufactured a wide variety of military vehicles to support the U.S. Armed Forces and its allies for more than 100 years.
    • Fire and Emergency: This segment is focused on designing and manufacturing fire apparatus, homeland security vehicles, mobile command, communications vehicles, and airport rescue firefighting vehicles. 
    • Commercial: The commercial category for Oshkosh includes refuse truck bodies for waste services, rear-discharge mixers (like concrete mixers) and specialized cranes.

Cao leveraged the lessons he learned in the MSIT program — particularly in the Data Science for Business Intelligence — to better understand operations within the corporation, and as a result, was able to build a more valuable internship experience.  

"As MSIT students, we hope to have a hands-on opportunity like this during our internship experience," Cao said. 

This fall, Cao is doing an independent study to complete his MSIT degree while still working full-time at Oshkosh. He credits MSIT with helping him get where he is today.

"MSIT offers a unique curriculum that combines tech and business," Cao said. "That curriculum boosted my business insight, as well as my understanding of agile and technology concepts, which help a lot in IT project development."