4 answers

I just finished a Physics Bachelor at ETH Zürich and I am starting a professional dance program at Steps on Broadway NY. I spent the last 2 months as an intern in a Data Science company. I also studied Architecture for one year and I love painting. I would love to do something useful for our society and feel attracted to the join between Physics and Medicine, as well as Environmental Science and renewable energies. As you see, I am interested in many subjects and struggling with todays super specialised careers. I have a technic profile, but I am a social person and I cannot picture myself as a lonely experimental physicist or a programmer... Any ideas on how to combine all my passions?

Updated Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

UPC Barcelona Architecture (1 year)
ETH Zürich Physics Bachelor
CERN Semester project Particle Physics
Data Science (Machine Learning)
Steps on Broadway NY International Independent Study Program
#college #art #architecture #technology #physics #datascience #artificialintelligence #machinelearning #deeplearning #dance #eth #environmentalscience #renewableenergies #medicine #mediacalimaging

4 answers

G. Mark’s Answer

Updated

You've stumbled on a situation very similar to my own. I went to school on a full scholarship that allowed me to take far more classes in more areas than would normally be well-advised ( :-) ) and had a tremendous amount of fun using up all those credits. And I've come up with the conclusion that very little of the knowledge you gain in so many areas is ever wasted. My first patent married computer architecture, brain research and music, and I sincerely believe that I would never have gotten it had I not studied things that seemed so unrelated.


Because of the value of general knowledge in innovation -- that of applying patterns and principles from seemingly unrelated fields to a problem -- it seems that the ability to see a problem from a new perspective works out well. In fact, some have estimated that over 70 percent of innovations come from using knowledge from areas different from the problem to be solved.


This is what I've found about managing a project. To get your hands around a problem that's difficult to define let alone solve, a "big picture" approach works. It works in ways that are unique to the human mind. Our brains do little else but find patterns where there don't seem to be any. History is full of examples, from the discovery of the benzene molecular structure to relativity.


So that's my suggestion. Take on a problem that's baffling others. Either run or join the project. Dig in. Contribute. Don't be shy about hypothesizing and sharing your weird ideas and your supposedly "irrelevant" observations. Your diverse set of skills will eventually "knock over that rubber tree plant" that others can't even see. Dive into unfamiliar waters. Probably not quite the answer you were looking for or expected, but humor me. Try it out. If nothing else, it'll be an adventure.

Updated
Dear Mark, Thanks a lot for your answer. This is exactly where I would love to get to an dit encourages to hear that cases like this exist. However, it is not easy to get into positions from which you can have an overview or help solving problems in an abstract way, rather than fulfilling a precise job given by a superior, at the beginning of your professional career. How did you start? Was this first patent you're speaking of the product of a Startup you founded? Or did you work for someone who gave you a lot of freedom to develop your own ideas? Or was it a perfect fit with an enterprise working already on a product based on a combination of your different passions?

Grant’s Answer

Updated Kiev, Ukraine

Hi, Elizabeth. I would generally agree with Mark's advice. But I would add that artificial intelligence (deep learning) is a particularly good thing to be going into now, and it shouldn't be hard for you to pick up with your physics background. You can make good money quickly, and if you want to start a startup it is pretty easy to do these days with modest savings. It's just easier to do cool stuff in this area than to make breakthroughs in other areas. And these skills are useful even if you want to do something with hardware. I wouldn't worry that much about being lonely as a programmer. You will still be working with other people, and if you don't like it you are still in a good position to change to something else. I guess being a painter would probably actually be more lonely.

Updated
Hi Grant, Thank you for your answer. I agree with you. One of the things I like the most about Data Science is, that one has a specific knowledge, which can be later applied to so many different fields. It somehow seems to allow you to gain skills without closing the doors to many other subjects. Seems like the best choice for me now would be to improve my programer skills and learn about deep learning... If I become a programmer inside a team it shouldn't be so bad and maybe this can lead me in a future to a problem-solver job... Do you think that it is important in what branch I start doing my first jobs as a data scientist? Or will I be able to change subject easily anyway?
Updated
You can certainly switch, but I would try to learn about and get a job in the area you find interesting. For me it was do generative models (models that produce images, sound, etc.). I rarely use any machine learning techniques other than deep learning.

G. Mark’s Answer

Updated

I never really sought out any leadership roles -- they were just thrust upon me. I of course prefer to think that I impressed someone, but in actuality, I'd say others simply found it easier to have someone else take over. But the best time is when I just saw some problem I could solve and just did what I thought needed to be done. That's how an effective team should work anyway. You should just join a team and do what's necessary. As time goes on, you'll find opportunities to use your other skills yourself. You'll be defining your role. In my case, I just liked working on weird problems, so my management encouraged me to do that. And tough problems are all around, so you'll have lots of opportunities. If you're discouraged, do what needs to be done and look for other jobs where you'll eventually be given that freedom. Problem-solvers are valued.

Updated
You are probably right. I might need to stop thinking about how to combine my passions in the "perfect" job and start doing ONE of these jobs -in one of the more specific directions that I am thinking about. Being a problem-solver profile with more initiative than just doing what you are told to might bring me naturally to the kind of job I am seeking...

G. Mark’s Answer

Updated

That's exactly it. For one thing, trying to get a job as a "general-purpose problem-solver" puts a lot of pressure on you. Second is that folks won't trust you with important problems until you gain some credibility. Third is that it's a lot more fun to gradually find your niche. I personally never asked for a job as a "problem-solver", it just happened as I showed an affinity for strange problems, often outside my explicit areas of expertise. Some might have considered the role as "getting the rejects", but I personally found every one an adventure.