George Geddes, Data Scientist and Space Physics PhD

How Space Physics Can Help Solve Earth-Bound Data Science Challenges

by Marcus Rabe | Oct. 13, 2023

What do space physics and data science have in common?

As it turns out, a lot.

George Geddes, a data scientist at Insight Softmax, uses the knowledge he gained from his space-based PhD research to solve earthbound business problems every day. Take, for example, a piece of client code designed to compute the distance between two points on the surface of the earth. Because George had previously used the programming language for atmospheric simulations, he quickly realized that the code wasn’t delivering accurate results.

“I’ve written enough code about spherical geometry – and made enough mistakes on it as a student – that I knew it wasn’t doing what it said it was doing,” he said. “That was unique because of my experience with space physics and geophysics.”

George earned his PhD in space physics, the study of plasmas in the upper atmosphere and solar wind, in 2020. But his fascination with theories surrounding space and time started when he was young. He found inspiration in documentaries that examined some of the most forward-thinking theories of the time, including string theory and the first peeks into the quantum realm.

“It was the next frontier and possibly the long sought-after ‘theory of everything’ that would tie all aspects of physics together,” he said. ”It was exotic.”

After graduation, as George searched for post-doctoral research opportunities, he started as a data science contractor with ISC. It was a natural fit – he already used many of the open-source software needed for his role, such as Python and Jupyter Notebooks, and he understood the foundations of statistics, research, and problem-solving.

Working with ISC, he also has the opportunity to continue research and learning in pioneering areas like deep learning, transformer models such as large language models, and even quantum computing. For George, it’s a natural extension of his academic research.

“There’s a lot of overlap between data science and any observational or experimental science,” he said. “Both require a lot of statistics, both require collecting massive amounts of data and trying to make sense of it all.” His expert research and reporting skills also guide him when sourcing information and presenting results and other information.

Bringing George to ISC wasn’t an accident. Having someone on the team with his particular level of expertise allows us to work with clients with complex, highly technical products that involve physics or chemistry. George can speak their language and understand what they’re trying to accomplish. Clients who have formerly partnered with consultants who only understand the surface level will understand that this knowledge is critical.

Take plasma, for example, which is used often in the semiconductor industry. “I may not be an expert in their particular niche, but I know plasmas and radio waves,” he explained. “Having a physics background helps me better understand what a client’s goals and challenges are.”

George is part of a full team of experts who can help you explore ways to unlock the transformative value of your company’s data. If you have a business problem that can be solved with data, drop us a line.

Return to Blog

Work with Insight Softmax

Join our team of data scientists and help tackle the world’s most challenging problems.