What should I do?
I am planning to be on sabbatical from June 2020 to August 2021, so I am thinking about how to spend it. Let me tell you what I can do, and you can tell me what I should do.
I consider myself a data scientist, but that means different things to different people. More specifically, I can contribute in the following areas:
- Data exploration, modeling, and prediction,
- Bayesian statistics and machine learning,
- Scientific computing and optimization,
- Software engineering and reproducible science,
- Technical communication, including data visualization.
I have written a series of books related to data science and scientific computing, including Think Stats, Think Bayes, Physical Modeling in MATLAB, and Modeling and Simulation in Python.
And I practice what I teach. During a previous sabbatical, I was a Visiting Scientist at Google, working in their Make the Web Faster initiative. I worked on measurement and modeling of network performance, related to my previous research.
As a way of developing, demonstrating, and teaching data science skills, I write a blog called Probably Overthinking It.
I’ve been programming since before you (the median-age reader of this article) were born, mostly in C for the first 20 years, and mostly in Python for the last 20. But I’ve also worked in Java, MATLAB, and a bunch of functional languages.
Most of my code has been for research or education, but in my time at Google I learned to write industrial-grade code with professional software engineering tools.
I work in public view, so you can see the good, the bad, and the ugly on GitHub. As a recent example, here’s a library I am designing for representing discrete probability distributions.
I work on teams: I have co-taught classes, co-authored books, consulted with companies and colleges, and collaborated on software projects. I’ve done Scrum training, and I use agile methods and tools on most of my projects (with varying degrees of fidelity).
If you are creating a new college from scratch, I am one of a small number of people with that experience. When I joined Olin College in 2003, the first year curriculum had run once. I was in for the creation of Years 2, 3, and 4, as well as the reinvention of Year 1.
Since then, Olin has come to be recognized as a top undergraduate engineering program and a world leader in innovative education. I am proud of my work here and the amazing colleagues I have done it with.
My projects focus on the role of computing and data science in education, especially engineering education.
- I was part of a team that developed a novel introduction to computational modeling and simulation, and I wrote a book about it, now available for MATLAB and Python.
- I developed an introductory data science course for Olin, a book, and an online class. Currently I am working with a team at Harvard to develop a data science class for their GenEd program.
- Bayesian statistics is not just for grad students. I developed an undergraduate class that teaches Bayesian methods first, and wrote a book about it.
- Data structures is a problematic class in the Computer Science curriculum. I developed a class on Complexity Science as an alternative approach to the topic, and wrote a book about it. And for people coming to the topic later, I developed an online class and a book.
I have also written a series of books to help people learn to program in Python, Java, and C++. Other authors have adapted my books for Julia, Perl, OCaml, and other languages.
My books and curricular materials are used in universities, colleges, and high schools all over the world.
I have taught webcasts and workshops on these topics at conferences like PyCon and SciPy, and for companies developing in-house expertise.
If you are creating a new training program, department, or college, maybe I can help.
What I am looking for
I want to work on interesting projects with potential for impact. I am especially interested in projects related to the following areas, which are the keys we need to get through the 21st Century with a habitable planet and a high quality of life for the people on it:
- Nuclear energy
- CO₂ sequestration
- Alternatives to meat
- Transportation without fossil fuels
- Global education
- Global child welfare
- Infrastructure for natural disaster and rising sea level
I live in Needham MA, and probably will not relocate for this sabbatical, but I could work almost anywhere in eastern Massachusetts. I would consider remote work, but I would rather work with people face to face, at least sometimes.
And I’ll need financial support for the year.
So, what should I do?
For more on my background, here is my CV.