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Winner’s insight into Masters Dissertation Scheme

Disa Ramadhina

Winner’s insight into the Masters Dissertation Scheme

Disa Ramadhina, winner of the Best Dissertation Award 2021, shares her experiences and insights about participating in the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme.

What attracted you to working on a project in partnership with the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC?)?

Prior to studying the MSc Business Analytics program at UCL, I studied Psychology at King’s College London, so I’ve always been interested in the topic of consumer behaviour. Therefore, applying to a project in partnership with the CDRC was a natural next step.

I came across the CDRC – a centre which leads engagement between industry and academia – through the MSc Business Analytics Program Director, David Alderton. I was particularly drawn to the project topic by Entain. I was unfamiliar with the company at first, until I realised they owned the big-betting brands Ladbrokes and Coral. Having been in London for four years, I’ve definitely come across their betting shops while walking around the city.

Entain logo

Ultimately, the opportunity to analyse consumer behaviour and knowing that Entain is a leading company within the gaming and sports-betting industry was what motivated me to apply to their project in partnership with the CDRC.

What problem or need was investigated through the student consulting project?

The pandemic-driven changes in consumer behaviour led to the hypothesis that, during lockdown, a lot of Entain’s new online customers have a retail background – meaning that they are retail customers who may have migrated online due to retail shop closures in the UK.

With methods of classification, we can predict whether an online customer has a retail background; and we found demographical and behavioural differences between groups of online customers with and without a retail background. While the findings of the project can be turned into strategic customer segmentation to generate higher revenue, it can also be used to analyse the differences in manifestations of problem gambling between the customer groups to create a more sustainable customer base. More on the project is available in my abstract.

How do you think the skills that you learned on the MSc Business Analytics program helped you support Entain?

The project was dependent on the use of programming tools which I had no prior knowledge in before the course. Particularly, the modules Statistical Foundations of Business Analytics, Marketing Analytics, Programming and Predictive Analytics helped me support Entain throughout the project as it taught me to utilise R and Python to analyse data, and to train machine learning models. Not only that, but the way the course organisers dealt with the pandemic and structured the online learning taught me soft skills which helped me adjust to the ways of online working. This was particularly useful while conducting the project during the pandemic, and with the fact that the Entain team was based in Gibraltar while I was based in London.

Can you tell us a little about winning the best dissertation award?

After completing the project, I was notified by the CDRC that I was shortlisted for the 2021 cohort’s top three dissertations. I was invited to present my project alongside other shortlisted candidates, which was followed by a virtual prizegiving ceremony. Winning the best dissertation award was very rewarding, and I would like to share two lessons that I have learned:

1. Projects come in different shapes and forms

Having the opportunity to watch other candidates’ presentations of their projects gave me insights into what other students worked on for months, which were completely different to my project. This showed me that dissertation projects encompass a broad range of topics, which made me appreciate the scale at which analytics could be applied into.

2. The importance of communication skills

I learned that having communication skills is critical in dissertation projects. I thought, how do I present my results such that they are meaningful to the audience? Whether it be academics or business’ stakeholders, no matter how good the analyses are or how complex the methodology is, the project must be communicated well for others to appreciate it as much as you do.

When did you graduate and what have you been doing since you graduated?

I graduated from MSc Business Analytics in December 2021. Since then, I have been working as a Data Analyst at Entain in their Compliance/Safer Gambling Analytics Department. Within the role, I am responsible for managing end-to-end analytics projects relating to the management of customer journeys to promote safer gambling. The projects start with data extraction and analysis through SQL, R and Python, and end in translating the findings into actionable insights presented through PowerPoint or visualized through Tableau dashboards. 

Disa Ramadhina

I would like to give special thanks to the Entain Gaming team – Piotr Smolinski, Joana Georgieva, and William Collins – for guidance and mentorship throughout the project; to the CDRC for the opportunity to work on the Masters’ Dissertation Scheme; and to David Alderton for the support from UCL as a Program Director and Personal Tutor.

COVID-19 Vaccination Centre Accessibility

Yellow COVID-19 vaccination centre road sign

COVID-19 Vaccination Centre Accessibility

The need to rapidly rollout COVID-19 vaccinations in England brought issues of geographical accessibility to the fore. Ambitious targets to double-vaccinate every eligible member of the adult population, within a matter of months, presented considerable challenges. The Department of Health and Social Care’s ‘UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan’ set ambitious targets for all households to be within 10 miles of their nearest vaccination site. Figures published periodically by the NHS (available here) suggested that almost 100% of households met this target, yet media reports frequently suggested that thousands of households faced challenges in accessing vaccination sites due to impracticably long journeys or lack of available public transport, especially in many rural areas.

Recently published CDRC research, carried out in conjunction with commercial partner HERE Technologies uncovered inequity in vaccination site accessibility, highlighting inequalities that are hidden by NHS-reported assessments of vaccination site coverage.  Our analysis reveals that over 90,000 households – all of which are inferred to lack access to public transport – face modelled journey times in excess of 1 hour to reach a vaccination site, with regional and urban-rural inequity evident (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Average journey times to closest 5 vaccination sites by all modes of transport.

Whilst mass-vaccination centres – some capable of vaccinating thousands of individuals in a day – offered operational efficiencies and economies of scale, these were largely confined to urban areas. Our research highlights the importance of local provision of COVID-19 vaccinations via consortia of GP-practices, and makes recommendations to support the continued delivery of booster jabs and other mass-vaccination programmes.

These analysis were only possible given the availability of open data from NHS England, coupled with comprehensive routing data from HERE Technologies. These data permitted calculation of validated travel times between residential neighbourhoods and vaccination sites, accounting for mode of transport and time of the day. The CDRC is uniquely placed to leverage domain-specific expertise, in this case from colleagues in the School of Geography, University of Leeds, in conjunction with high-quality commercial data such as those supplied by HERE.

The analysis reported here was undertaken by MSc student, Catherine Duffy, as part of the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme, which links Masters students with commercial sector partners. Catherine, a Geography Graduate from Leeds, was undertaking the MSc in Data Science and Analytics, and now works in a related role in the commercial sector.

You can read more about the analysis here: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-393X/10/1/50

For enquiries about this work, please contact:  Dr Andy Newing  

For more information on the CDRC Masters dissertation scheme please see: https://www.cdrc.ac.uk/education-and-training/masters-dissertation-scheme/

Masters Dissertation Scheme 2021 Awards

Data shown in gold converging into a point of light on the horizon like a sunset

Masters Dissertation Scheme 2021 Awards

Since 2012, the nationwide CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme (MDS) has brought together masters students intent upon pursuing dissertations using retail and other industry data, their academic supervisors and industry contacts who are able to provide data or support ‘horizon-scanning’ research focused upon real world problems. The MDS now also has an active alumni network of past students to maintain and further develop industry collaborations with CDRC.

Every year, the best dissertations are showcased at an event and three prizes awarded to the best dissertations.

This year’s awards ceremony was held online, hosted by the Market Research Society’s Census and GeoDems Group, with prizes awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Senior Policy Manager, Bruce Jackson.

The winner was Disa Ramadhina (MSc Business Analytics, UCL) who worked with partner Entain Group on the relationship between the use of retail shop and online gambling behaviour. Disa now works with Entain Group as a Compliance Data Analyst in their Safer Gambling team.  

Runner up Sharon Liu (MSc Operational Research with Data Science, University of Edinburgh) worked with longstanding MDS partner Walgreen Boots Alliance on enhancements to online recommender systems to personalise customer experience.

Movement Strategies has also become a regular sponsor of MDS projects and worked with our other runner up, Lu Xia (MSc Social and Geographic Data Science, UCL) on inferring transport mode using GPS data.

Disa Ramadhina

Sharon Liu
Sharon Liu

Lu Xia
Lu Xia

Our warmest congratulations to these very worthy winners, who share £1,000 in prize money. This year the MDS attracted 80 applications for the 20 projects on offer, details of which can be found in the MDS Project Archive

The Masters Dissertation Scheme 2022 is now open for proposals from industry and other partners – enquiries can be directed to Melanie Chesnokov at m.chesnokov@ucl.ac.uk

Masters Dissertation Scheme 2021: another fantastic year

Masters Dissertation Scheme 2021: another fantastic year of projects!

A record number of students from UK universities applied to the Masters Dissertation Scheme (MDS) this year. Of more than 80 applications, a total of 20 students were selected to partner with 15 organisations for their 2021 Masters dissertations. 

Real-world data was used across a range of issues to produce innovative research in areas from loyalty card and gambling harm data to housing, social media, health, retail, transport, construction and the justice system.

Abstracts for each dissertation can be found on the Project Archive page.  Five students have also recorded videos, talking about their experiences of the Scheme.

The range of subject areas covered gives the MDS a broad appeal and applications were received from students studying across numerous diverse disciplines, ranging from Business Analytics to Sustainable Urbanism, and Spatial Data Science to Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Applications also came from a wide range of UK universities including Bristol, City, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Loughborough, Nottingham, Oxford, UCL and Westminster. 

Congratulations to all of this year’s students, and special thanks to the sponsors and academics who supported the 2021 Scheme.  

For enquiries about the Masters Dissertation Scheme, or to discuss next year’s Scheme, please email info@cdrc.ac.uk  

Background to the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme 

In 2012, ESRC funding allowed for the establishment of the first MDS. Following its success, the MDS has continued to be funded annually, with ESRC funding used alongside business co-funding to sponsor Masters degree dissertations that address business horizon-scanning topics.

Proposals from business sponsors are sought during the first term of Masters courses and are posted on the CDRC website. Any interested Masters students studying at a UK institution are invited to apply for proposals from February 2022 (second term of the Masters). Dissertations are conducted by postgraduate students and are co-supervised by academics and business analysts from the sponsoring organisation.

Although funded initially on an ad-hoc basis, and subsequently subject to short term renewals of CDRC funding (such as under the World Class Labs’ funding stream), the Scheme has proven remarkably successful, with a total of 76 dissertations completed with external organisations to 2020 and a further 20 dissertations completed in this year’s very successful annual round (2020-2021 intake). 

Our LinkedIn network brings together a network of 90 students, sponsors and academics who have been involved in the Scheme over the past years. CDRC alumni and friends are invited to join here: www.linkedin.com/in/cdrc-alumni-group-1613a31ba/.  

Past MDS alumni work in a range of sectors worldwide, including retail, banking, hospitality, logistics and academia.  

Celebrating collaboration: the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme

Celebrating collaboration: the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme

Celebrating collaboration: the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme. Thursday 29th April 2021, 10:30-15:00.

The CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme, now in its tenth year, has been successfully run by the Consumer Data Research Centre for the last seven years. The event celebrated the success of the scheme, and explored the changing nature of academic-industry collaboration. Masters students who had gone through the scheme presented project case studies, and a selection of alumni spoke of the positive impact the scheme had had on their data science careers. A panel session rounded off the event with a discussion of the possibilities and ambitions for the next seven years of the Masters Dissertation Scheme. The event was attended by industry partners, MDS alumni, and the CDRC team including Paul Longley, Alex Singleton, and Jonathan Reynolds.

Speaker biographies


1030-1130: The Business of Engagement. Session recording (Longley 0:06, Dugmore 7:05, Reynolds 28:27, Squires 41:21)

  • Introduction & welcome: Professor Paul Longley, Director, CDRC
  • The evolution of academic-industry collaboration: Keith Dugmore, Demographic Decisions. Slides
  • CDRC: Where are they now? MDS 7 years on: Dr Jonathan Reynolds, Deputy Director (Oxford), CDRC. Slides
  • The business of engagement: the firm’s perspective: Martin Squires, Director of Advanced Analytics, Pets at Home. Slides

1145-1245: Alumni presentations. Session recording (Murage 2:16, Davies 25:10, Tonge & Montt 45:53)

  • Nombuyiselo Murage, Tamoco. Dissertation at Tamoco. MSc Geographic Data Science, University of Liverpool. Slides
  • Alec Davies, Pets at Home. Dissertation at Sainsbury’s. MSc Geographic Data Science, University of Liverpool, PhD Geographic Data Science. Slides
  • Christian Tonge, Movement Strategies. MSc Geographic Data Science, University of Liverpool, and Cristobal Montt, Movement Strategies. MSc Data Science, City, University of London. Dissertations at Movement Strategies. Slides

1400-1505: Alumni presentations (continued) and panel discussion. Session recording (Ushakova 1:48, Samson 21:29, Panel 37:26)

  • Alumni presentation: Dr Anastasia Ushakova, Senior Research Associate, University of Lancaster. Dissertation at British Gas.
    MSc Public Policy, UCL; PhD Computational Social Science. Slides
  • Alumni presentation: Nick Samson, Associate Director, CBRE. Dissertation at British Gas. MSc Geographic Information Science, UCL. Slides
  • Panel Discussion. The next 7 years. Achievements and ambitions: Alex Singleton, Deputy Director (Liverpool), CDRC;
    Samantha Hughes, Analytics Innovation Manager, Avon; Martin Squires, Director of Advanced Analytics, Pets at Home.
  • Thanks & conclusion: Professor Paul Longley, Director, CDRC

Nick Samson, 2014 MDS alumnus. Dissertation at British Gas. Project title: Can smart meters save consumers and British Gas money and carbon by pinpointing which consumers are most likely and best placed to install insulation in their homes?