I chose MIDS because I think having a subject matter focus baked into the degree is a really good idea, for a few reasons. First, there are specific problems that I'm personally interested in solving (more on that in the third question). It also makes sense from an economic perspective - there are tons of people with generic understandings of computer science and data science, and having expertise in a specific domain helps differentiate. Finally, I think it's a good idea given my specific skillset - I'm pretty strong in all areas of academia, not just mathematics and computer science, and not leveraging that in some way by broadening my focus would be a waste. As icing on the cake, I already lived pretty close to Duke - not so close that I didn't have to move, but close enough that the move is pretty painless and I already know some people and places in the area.
What excites you about data science?
Data science is exciting largely because it's new, and therefore has a high potential to yield answers (or even more exciting, types of answers) that the world hasn't really seen yet, at least not in certain domains. It's also exciting to me personally because of its proximity to other topics which I enjoy and fields that I'm familiar with - computing, probability, statistics, machine learning, etc.
What research area are you most interested in?
I'm mostly interested in working on the optimization of online platforms as tools for good in the world, and on clean energy, because I view both topics as related to large scale (in the case of clean energy, perhaps existential) threats to human society.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have three major hobbies - computer gaming, exercise (specifically swimming, weightlifting, and rock climbing), and tabletop roleplaying games. I also spend a lot of time reading and listening to podcasts.
What is one interesting fact about you?
I once won a free pair of Heelys (those shoes with wheels on the bottom) by writing a script that found me someone willing to give me one if I could screenshot their profile on an image sharing site and get it to the front page of that site. They bought them and shipped them to me, but I’ve never worn them.