Hi, I’m Burton. Welcome to my blog!


I’m currently learning how to be a data scientist, and for my personal benefit (and possibly yours), I’ve decided to keep a blog and share as I go. First, though, I should introduce myself.

I’m from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I got into science by way of successive childhood obsessions: dinosaurs => astronauts => Star Wars => computer-generated physics simulations. Of course. I went to undergrad at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI, where I majored in Physics and Spanish and minored in Applied Mathematics, worked as a computer lab supervisor for four years, and yet never took a formal computer science course. (I suppose it’s too late for regrets…) For my undergraduate thesis, I performed a search for the Higgs Boson — which was not actually discovered until six years later — using an artificial neural network. It was my first real experience in programming, and I loved it.

I went directly into grad school for Physics at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, NY, and joined the high-energy physics group. I performed hardware and analysis software testing of prototype silicon sensors that are used to detect charged particles, such as electrons. In the process, I was exposed to a handful of programming languages, especially C++, which I then used to implement an algorithm for enhancing sensitivity to certain physics signals (including that sneaky Higgs!). Before I knew it, I was moving to Geneva, Switzerland to work on the ATLAS experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), where I lived for two years. I searched for (but did not find) an exotic hypothetical particle called a leptoquark, for which I helped develop and maintain a Python-based, batch-processing data analysis framework. I became a devout Pythonista. I also filmed, co-produced, and edited a full-length, physics-themed zombie movie set at CERN, titled “Decay.” (Release upcoming!) Then I moved back to New York, spent several months writing up a beastly 200-page dissertation, and graduated in August with my PhD.

I decided to become a data scientist back in May; the Academic life just wasn’t for me. So, for the past few months, I’ve been studying the field of data science, building on my math and science foundation with new techniques and programming languages to flesh out my skill set. And now that I’m not a total noob, I’d like to share what I learn. This should be fun. :)