Computer Science

Q&A PART II: ALEXEY GOLDIN TALKS STEM EDUCATION

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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.

Q&A PART I: ALEXEY GOLDIN TALKS TABBY’S STAR

 The following is a Q&A with Teza employee, Alexey Goldin. Alexey’s work on Tabby’s Star has been creating some impressive buzz, so we asked him to discuss his research and how he got interested in the subject. Make sure to check back in for the second installment! 

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What is Tabby’s Star?

Tabby’s Star was accidentally detected by an exoplanet-seeking satellite. The star changes brightness a lot (at times dimming by much as 20 percent). There is no known physical explanation for why this star, which is so similar to our Sun, can change its brightness so drastically. The standard hypothesis is that something is occluding its light. The subject became popular when someone hypothesized that super-powerful aliens were building structures to collect star energy (similar to an unfinished Dyson sphere)!

I looked at the data carefully alongside Valeri Makarov of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., and we came to the conclusion that there is another weak, but probably unrelated, object close to this star’s line of sight. It is just accidentally there. We believe there is a lot of space junk (e.g., comets, some protoplanetary material) associated with that other, weak and almost invisible object that is occluding Tabby’s Star. It’s not as fun as aliens, but it is more likely.

Can you tell us about how you conducted the research?\

Valeri is my former colleague. We worked together on SIM mission. Before that I did not have experience with astrometry and optical astronomy –this was entirely new field for me. As a result, Valeri and I worked closely together — he did most of the astronomy work while I focused on data analysis — to produce a series of articles beginning around 2007.

Why are you interested in Tabby’s Star?

This kind of work is interesting and exciting to me generally, even when we work with less famous objects. But I also find that this type of work is more pertinent to my role at Teza than you may think. To find a relevant trading signal we have to go through a large amount of data to find a weak signal. Astronomers (especially ones looking for exoplanets) often have to do the same.

HOW CAN WE SPOTLIGHT WOMEN IN STEM?

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The gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) starts young – a recent survey found that young girls become interested in STEM subjects around the age of 11, but quickly lose interest by age 15. By the time young women reach college, only 6.7 percent graduate with STEM degrees, compared to 17 percent of men. While there are undoubtedly many factors influencing young girls’ decision to shy away from STEM, lack of female role models has been cited as a key issue.

That’s what makes several recent projects focused on spotlighting the important contributions of women in STEM so exciting. New magazines showcasing female scientists,  Google phone cases  honoring the American space program’s leading women, and LEGO’s women of NASA set all underscore the important role women have played throughout STEM history.  These and other initiatives highlighting STEM’s female superstars will continue to play an important role when it comes to inspiring women and girls of all ages to pursue careers in these fields.

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Through the support of organizations like After-School All-Stars, Misha Malyshev and the Teza Technologies team are working to inspire tomorrow’s STEM stars.

COULD ROBOTS HELP INSPIRE YOUNG GIRLS TO PURSUE CAREERS IN STEM?

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Research shows that by the first grade, young students seem to be embracing the stereotype that girls are not as good at robotics and programming as boys. Other recent reports have pointed to confidence as a major issue when it comes to female students and STEM – a study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that boys rated their abilities in math and science 27 percent higher than their female peers. That lack of confidence in girls seems likely to be a contributing factor towards decreased STEM opportunities for women. For example, the National Center for Women and Information Technology reports that women hold only 25 percent of computing related occupations.

While girls start internalizing the idea they aren’t as good at math and science at a young age, a recent report from the University of Washington provides a great approach for parents looking to combat STEM gender stereotypes. When 6-year-old girls participated in a computer programming activity involving robots, they showed more positive attitudes about their own STEM abilities. This study serves to underscore a point we’ve discussed before – when it comes to STEM education, getting an early start is key.

At Teza Technologies Misha Malyshev and team have been working closely with organizations to encourage children to develop an interest in STEM from an early age. Through the support of organizations such as Adler Planetarium and After-School All-Stars, we hope to inspire the next generation of scientists and coders.

TWO EASY WAYS TO BUILD STEM EDUCATION OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

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Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs, but only 16 percent of high school seniors are interested in pursuing careers in these fields. While there has been a lot of conversation surrounding the role of the education system, engagement in STEM outside of school can be just as important when it comes to sparking youth interest in STEM.

It Starts at Home

Research shows that parents who talk to their high school students about the relevance of math and science can help to increase both competency and career interest in these fields. Alongside ongoing conversations about the importance of STEM, thinking of fun and interesting ways to incorporate STEM activities into children’s lives after school can also help inspire students.

  • Practical experiments: Instead of leaving STEM education to the books, try building a sand volcano or creating a roller coaster out of straw.
  • Mentorships: When it comes to high school-aged students, consider working on STEM literacy skills as a family or setting them up with a STEM mentor. Giving students an extra push outside of school is the key when it comes to fostering an interest in STEM careers.

Misha Malyshev and the rest of the Teza Technologies team are committed to inspiring the next generation of STEM stars through the support of organizations like After-School All-Stars and the Adler Planetarium.

INTRODUCING AFTER-SCHOOL ALL-STARS & TEZA TECHNOLOGIES’ STEM RESOURCE GUIDE

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Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are in high demand. STEM jobs are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs, but only 16 percent of high school seniors reported interest in pursuing STEM careers. What’s more, there are serious racial and gender gaps when it comes to STEM education (a recent report from Google and Gallup found that black students are less likely to have access to computer science in the classroom).

That’s why we’re proud to present our new STEM resource guide. Developed in partnership with After-School All-Stars (ASAS), this guide provides information about the state of STEM education, ideas for ways to engage students in STEM activities at home, and information about the work we’re doing in partnership with ASAS to inspire the next generation of STEM superstars. Through this resource guide and other initiatives, the entire team at Teza Technologies is committed to highlighting the importance of STEM education.

WHAT IF WE TREATED FEMALE SCIENTISTS LIKE CELEBRITIES?

From buzz surrounding the new film about NASA’s female mathematicians Hidden Figures to discussions about the opportunities for women in data science, there has been a lot of great news about women in STEM lately. One of the most exciting pieces of news is General Electric’s new campaign focused on closing the gender gap. GE has promised to place 20,000 women in technical roles by the year 2020, and is working towards equal gender representation in all of their entry-level technical roles. But our favorite part of this campaign is this inspiring commercial focused on female scientists – “What If Scientists Were Celebrities?

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When it comes to inspiring young girls and women to pursue careers in STEM, representation in films, television and other forms of popular media is essential. We applaud GE’s campaign to highlight the (often untold) stories of women in STEM. At Teza Technologies, Misha Malyshev and the rest of our team are working to inspire young children to pursue careers in STEM by supporting incredible organizations like After-School All-Stars and the Adler Planetarium.

Celebrate Computer Science Education Week!

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is upon us! Organized by Code.org and held in recognition of trailblazing computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hooper’s birthday (December 9, 2016), CSEdWeek is dedicated to inspiring students of all ages to take an interest in computer science! Students are also encouraged to try an “Hour of Code” – a one-hour tutorial (available in over 45 languages) geared towards showing students just how fun programming can be!

What you need to know about U.S. computer science education:

There are more than 500,000 unfilled computing jobs in the United States, yet only 42,969 computer science graduates from U.S. universities entered the workforce in 2015. Only 40% percent of K-12 schools teach computer science courses, and only 32 states allow these courses to count towards graduation requirements.  Furthermore, new research from Google and Gallup reveals that there are serious issues related to racial and gender diversity in the field. While black and hispanic students are more likely to be interested in learning computer science, these students have less exposure to computers. The same research revealed similar issues when it comes to girls – boys are 1.5 times as likely to be told they’d be good at computer science by teachers and 1.7 times as likely to receive the same encouragement from parents. Boys are also twice as likely to see someone like them doing computer science in the media.

Get involved with #CSEdWeek!

When it comes to encouraging a love for computer science, or any STEM subject for that matter, it’s important to start early. A recent survey asked a group of 1,000 middle school students around the U.S. if they preferred math homework or eating broccoli. The winner? Broccoli (by 56 percent).

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Eat your vegetables! Math homework is less popular than eating broccoli for middle schoolers.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to get your kids interested in coding and STEM from a young age. There are toys, coding programs and afterschool programs all geared towards generating interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Additionally, check out this list of resources created especially for Computer Science Education Week.

While putting the focus on computer science is certainly important this week, it’s important to encourage children to pursue careers in computer science and other STEM fields year round. At Teza Technologies, Misha Malyshev and his team are working to inspire the next-generation of computer scientists and STEM heroes through the support of organizations like Adler Planetarium, buildOn and After-School All-Stars.