Five-year update: BOS to ATL, Engineering to Data Science, PPP2R5D

I recently resurrected this blog from the ether and thought I might share a bit of a personal update on what I’ve been up to since I stopped posting regularly five years ago.

  • In early 2013, right after finishing graduate school, we moved to Boston and I joined the Engineering Mechanics and Infrastructure (EMI) group at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH). I could say a lot of words about how much I loved the culture and technical work at SGH. If I were going to do engineering mechanics work, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than SGH. I got to work on consistently challenging and interesting projects with world class people, using the best computational tools available. Most of my work revolved around risk assessment using nonlinear finite element analysis (specifically computational modeling of concrete failure and crack propagation, the topic of my Ph.D. research) and later on other methods like neural networks to model the effects of wind loading on unique precision structures. I worked on projects primarily for Department of Energy (critical nuclear-related structures at national labs), commercial nuclear facilities, and the Department of Defense. I wrote a lot of Python while I was there.

  • A few years in, I began to realize I felt really drawn toward data science. I was working on neural network algorithms, and I realized that the linear algebra and statistics I had picked up during my Ph.D. had more than prepared me to understand the technical literature I was reading about machine learning. I also picked up the thread that I was enjoying the programming and data science work at the core more than the various engineering applications. I realized that my time in pure engineering was limited and I wanted to be able to work in more diverse areas outside the hyperspecialization I had developed. I began delving in my spare time into various machine learning explorations in addition to the machine learning work I was doing at SGH.

  • Three years ago, I left my engineering job to join a big data startup where a good friend and (and fellow engineering alum) worked. Working at a startup as a data scientist has been an immensely interesting experience, in that you are exposed to every aspect of the data science ecosystem within a company. While I’m primarily responsible for developing and maintaining our core production machine learning algorithms and code, I’ve worked on everything. There’s probably no better way to see all of these parts than working in a startup. I was told that you learn incredibly fast when thrown into an environment like this, and that has been true for me.

  • We loved living in Boston. In many ways, Boston was a revelation. Gina and I built a brand new life there, learned a new city, made amazing friends who are like family now, learned a lot about ourselves, and grew immensely. For almost two years, I had an amazing commute by bike along the Charles River, which I did several times a week and romanticize now – I caught the sunrise over the harbor on my ride in and sunset over the Charles on my ride home (amazing therapy). We loved living near the river, coast, mountains, and a lot of history. We fell in love with the MFA and Gardner museum along with a long list of amazing vegan restaurants in Cambridge and around the city. In many ways, Boston became a deep part of our identity.

  • We added two kids to the crew while in Boston, A (a boy, now 4) and M (a girl, now 2). Our oldest daughter N is now 10.

  • Both of my oldest kids saw their first baseball game at Fenway Park. I grew up a Braves fan during the 1990s, so my oldest daughter loves to talk smack about how she’s a Red Sox fan, which I love.

  • In December of 2018, we decided to move back to Atlanta. This followed a string of serious medical issues with two of our kids which ultimately highlighted the need to be closer to our families and support network. I negotiated a remote position with my startup in Boston and we made the move to the ATL. I flew to Boston 25 times in 2018 for work, which led to a fascinating identity crisis over which city was actually home, but it’s been nice to stay so connected to our friends there.

  • In October of 2018, our youngest daughter (M) was diagnosed with an ultra-rare genetic developmental disorder. The disorder is caused by a de novo mutation on gene PPP2R5D and is informally known as Jordan’s Syndrome (you can learn about it—and even donate to the cause—here). Our daughter was the 71st individual known to be affected, which is hard to wrap my mind around. Life has been a whirlwind since her birth, as she has required significant interventions since very early on. We have connected with the lead researchers on her condition and have been figuring out what treatment/therapies will help her most. Has it been overwhelming? Yes. But M is one of the happiest, most delightful kids I have ever met, and getting to be her dad is one of the great privileges of my life. I plan to write extensively about our journey regarding her diagnosis, the PPP2R5D community, and ongoing research which is sci-fi level insane. We just got back from the 2019 Jordan’s Guardian Angels family and research conference (if you look close, we are in the big group photo near the middle).

  • Since my daughter’s diagnosis, my new hobby has been reading up on genetics and molecular biology. All I can say is that we live in utterly amazing times. It’s been amazing to get to know the researchers working on her disorder and learn what is now possible (including hanging out with folks working on the CRISPR methodologies for her gene!). The future is here.

You can read more about me, follow me on Twitter, subscribe to this blog by RSS or email, and find many more posts in the archives.