2017 & 2018 brought a whirlwind of intellectual adventures & launched the beginning of a beautiful new life chapter in Germany.
In this time, I met some seriously interesting & brilliant people who patiently introduced me to new topics, kindly embraced my curiosity and somewhat naivete (thank you! 💜), and extended offers of collaboration. This led to exciting opportunities much more varied than 2016 Brooklyn-dwelling Meghan expected.
Some highlights span teaching a Udacity course on ML for iOS … to building software across areas of the stack I’d previously thought out of reach to me … to regularly reading research papers and gradually growing from a passive fly-on-the-wall to an active & engaged participant … to being invited to speak or give workshops in a dozen or so countries & being a guest on podcasts with people who once seemed like distant superheros … to having the fortuitous opportunity to contribute (albeit modestly) to the high energy physics community’s (CERN, Fermilab, etc) collaboration with industry software developers. This culminated in an overarching paper A Roadmap for HEP Software and Computing R&D for the 2020s of which my input were in this & this section.
Exposure to many people & fields generated a seemingly boundless list of questions for me. I learned of subfields, saw how different problems overlap in elegant ways, and, yes, I also discovered unknown unknowns. This had a side effect of bringing me back to my roots. I started reviewing foundational topics that underlied many of these problems - topics in math, philosophy, & physics. I spent every spare moment in the library aka the OG coworking spaces. Slowly, with time, the dots kept connecting, and this is probably just the beginning.
I had lots of nostalgia as these activities reminded me of my bright-eyed 16 year old self who happily spent nights with Art of Problem Solving books for math olympiad or Feynman lectures and spent summers doing math & science “research” 🤣 #tbt. If 16 year old me could see a decade into the future, she may be anxiously wondering, “What happened!?” A decade later, how did I get so far away from my original intentions & intellectual true loves?
Time is short. It’s 2019 and I am excited to put the pieces together and find a way to dedicate the rest of my life to working on applied science problems.
Given my past deeper studies in mathematics & computer science and an undergraduate level foundational understanding of the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, & biology), I’m currently exploring one application area every few months to surface the problems I think (1) I have the highest probability of contributing effectively in a reasonable timeframe, (2) are tractable to solve, (3) are under-resourced and therefore may be ripe for rapid progress. Side note: this approach roughly borrows from some ideas from the Effective Altruism movement’s 80000 hours organization, which I highly recommend as a resource.
This rapid but focused exploration period entails studying (formally+informally), understanding the current state, reproducing research, learning new tools, meeting with experts, & writing up my learnings. From drug discovery to climate modeling, let’s see where this goes.
Hopefully, the later part of 2019 will involve moving full speed ahead toward a narrower set of problems. Then, hopefully, begins years of studying, contributing, refining, repeat. The future is still unwritten.
If you would like to discuss ideas, are interested in collaborating, have feedback for me, or just want to chat, please feel free to reach out! The fastest medium to reach me these days is Twitter - @meghafon.
And if you actually read this far, thank you very much for spending your precious time crossing paths with me 🙏.