#AAS225 and What's Next

07 Jan 2015 · by bathompso · in  Research   Data Science 

For those of you who know me personally (or follow me on Twitter), you know that I am currently in Seattle for the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting. Tomorrow I'll be doing a dissertation talk, distilling the entirety of my work at TCU over the past 4 years into a overly-short 15 minute presentation. After the conference, however, I will not be getting on a plane back to DFW, but will instead be headed just a bit down the west coast to San Francisco. I previously wrote about how academia was heading for a breakdown and many scientists were turning to industry for employment. Now I'm one of those scientists.

Instead of heading back home, I will be living in Palo Alto, CA for 3 months while I attend the Insight Data Science Program. Insight is a 3-month training program that looks for hard-science Ph.D. that wish to transition into the data science industry in Silicon Valley. From what I've heard from people at the AAS, it is a very exclusive club, and is extolled by those who know somebody who previously attended.

The first six weeks of the program involves all of the necessary programming training for a job in the industry. I will pick a public data set and complete an analysis similar to one I would do in a data science job. For the second six weeks, I will interview at top tech companies who sponsor the program: companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Jawbone (you can see a full list of the awesome places I could end up on the Insight home page).

Attending the conference this week has only solidified my choice to transition into data science. Reading posters on topics completely unrelated to my area of expertise got me excited simply due to the interesting results they achieved. It cemented the fact that I enjoy tackling new challenges and learning new things, regardless of the subject matter I'm working with. I am just as happy to study binary systems (my current area), as I am starspots, or galaxy simulations, or website user data. As long as I'm able to satisfy my curiosity to explore the world around me through data, I will be happy.

While 2014 was an amazing year for me (I got married!), I believe 2015 will be the best yet. I'm extremely excited for the opportunity to be a part of this highly-regarded program, and thankful to have found a solid path forward after grad school. I will be back in DFW on April 1st, when I'll defend my Ph.D., and then Chrissy and I will leave sometime in mid- to late May to head out for San Francisco full time.

Although I haven't been using it much lately, this blog will be more active while I'm in the program. I'll be sharing my experiences, as well as the new things I've learned, hoping that it might help the next lost astrophysicist (or biologist, or economist, etc.). Look for more good stuff in the coming weeks.

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