I’m consider myself lucky that I’ve been able to call many places home over the years — Utah, California, Maryland, and DC. I recently had a chance to go back home to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) where I received my undergraduate degree and spend time with the students and faculty. And I’ll be honest, it was awesome.
Not just because UCSD was also nice enough to give me an award (because I’m the one should be thanking them), but there’s something about being able to visit a campus where so much of your early thinking is framed (especially with your kids in tow). For example, meeting the students reaffirmed my faith that we’re on an awesome path forward if we keep investing in the future. The next generation of scientists, innovators, and artists are breaking new ground in ways that I could have never anticipated (there are also many more people skateboarding on campus which I fully endorse!). And here are my thoughts that stuck with me:
We need make opportunities available for everyone
There’s nothing like being part of the club called being an alumni, but what about those that didn’t even get a chance to try? What about their shot?
We need to think about our education system with greater flexibility. And I’m a prime example, when I first graduated from high school, I wasn’t ready for college. Lucky for me, I had a great community college that got me ready by teaching me how to write and set me up for a love of math and getting ready to make the most of UCSD. There are too many people out there who need a shot. Their access to opportunity shouldn’t be determined by the zipcode they were born in. The answers to these issues aren’t easy. We need to be aggressive and have the courage to make provide opportunities for everyone. As a country we’re a team; and a good team never leaves a teammate behind.
Trumpcare needlessly cedes US leadership in data, science, and health
Over the past two years, as the Chief Data Scientist for the U.S., I’ve had the opportunity to look over the horizon and see what’s coming in advancements to medicine. First off, I couldn’t be more bullish. The costs of genetic testing continues to drop and is increasingly used to address diseases like cancer. We also now have a wide array of new sensors to understand the impact of our environments both around us (e.g., air quality) and inside us (e.g., our microbiome). These combined with with advancements of data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) have laid the foundation to revolutionize how we treat disease.
The foundation of chaos theory is that small changes lead to giant ones over time. This is often referred to as that butterfly effect — a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can lead to a tornado in Texas. It’s a weird concept that I’ve been in love with since I first heard about when I was in 9th grade. So much so that I went on to get my doctorate in the math behind it. It also became the foundation for my love of working with data
I’d like you to take a moment and think about a significant event. Maybe it was the first time you exchanged glances with a future loved one. Maybe a time you almost stepped off the curb and was narrowly missed being hit by a car. Maybe it’s a moment where the only way of rationalizing it is to say that you were at the right place at the right time. Now think about all the infinitesimally small changes that led up to that event or could have led to the event not happening.