In part II of our Q&A with Teza employee Alexey Goldin, Alexey discusses STEM education and offers advice for young people interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Make sure to check out part I of the conversation if you haven’t already seen it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background in STEM?
I’ve been interested in physics since I was around 12 or 13 years old. There were a lot of popular publications back in the USSR where I grew up promoting math and science for kids, and some of them were quite high quality. I was going to Science Olympiads (they have similar U.S. events now) and I eventually managed to attend a high school in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, with a focus on science and math. We had good teachers who had a lot of freedom in selecting curriculum, so I learned a lot there. I went on to attend the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (just like Misha Malyshev), and hoped to pursue a career in space research afterwards.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was very little money left for research. I decided to apply to some U.S. universities and graduate programs and was eventually accepted to the University of Chicago. There I worked on radio astronomy projects with highly interesting people. I focused on cosmic microwave background radiation—the oldest type of radiation in the universe—and built detectors and designed radio telescopes.
After graduating in 2000, I went on to work at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for postdoctoral research. After shifts in funding caused cuts across many astrophysics programs, I switched gears to focus on the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM). After my time at SIM, and another round of funding cuts, I decided to switch gears yet again and ended up working in finance.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in pursuing a career in STEM?
First of all, science, math and engineering are incredibly interesting and fun. Would I still be dabbling in astronomy 12 years after giving up on a scientific career otherwise? Secondly, science, math and engineering are great foundations for a career in our fast changing world. I managed to end up with a rewarding career surrounded by great people despite some setbacks along the way. My foundation in STEM was strong enough that I am doing challenging things that I had no idea existed when I started my career in science.
I know of many people who, with backgrounds similar to mine, became successful writers, business professionals, and company founders. Math, science and engineering open doors and teach you a different, more consistent and robust way of thinking, which can be applied to many situations.