Who am I?

The short version is that I am a PhD student in Civil Engineering, studying mathematical methods for modeling materials and for analyzing risk. The long version may be more interesting:

I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Mathematics from Iowa State. After graduating I worked for several years in quantitative finance; building, maintaining, and quality controlling models for risk and market impact of trades. I worked (very) briefly for a company called Neomorphic which was run by a smart cookie named Cyrus Harmon who now mainly works on hacking Lisp code. I spent several years in the early days of serious web application development (~ 2001) trying to build a mouse genetics management database. I hated web development. My passion is for modeling.

From 2002 to 2005 I studied for a BS in Civil Engineering, graduating from UC Davis. During that time I did extensive statistical analysis of body scans for a clothing manufacturer, and I consulted for biologists looking for patterns in where certain DNA binding molecules are active in flies.

I then worked for Jax Kneppers Associates, a forensic engineering and construction defect investigator. There I built models of fluid flow in tight channels with capillary action, designed statistical sampling methods for field investigations, grubbed around in the attics of houses with roofing defects, and took perhaps 100,000 photos of broken things in 2 years.

In 2008 I started studying in the PhD program at USC in Civil Engineering, with an emphasis on developing techniques for modeling materials, and evaluating risk. The PDE methods that work so well for fluid flows and elastic solids seem inadequate to accurately describe materials like sand, and historical methods of analyzing risk such as ignoring it and using a large factor of safety will be increasingly inadequate for the developed world whose infrastructure is aging.

In addition to mechanical models based on Classical Physics, and Biological Informatics, I love to play with data, calculating statistics and analyzing patterns; searching for ways to understand the world through observation. I like to say that Engineering is the marriage of Physics and Economics, so you may find me looking at economic analyses such as comparing statistical measures of lives saved to dollars spent.

I am an occasional contributor of ideas and comments at Andrew Gelman’s blog and am a big admirer of his developments in Bayesian statistics. I hope you’ll enjoy reading these entries.