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SDS Student Spotlight: Evan Ott

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Evan Ott is a student in the PhD in Statistics program in the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences.

Tell us a little bit about yourself—educational background, work experience, etc.

I got my undergrad honors degrees here at UT-Austin in Physics and Computer Science (so yes, that makes this my 7th year as a Longhorn). I've interned quite a bit: TripAdvisor, Sandia National Labs, Applied Research Laboratories (at the Pickle Research Campus), and now twice at Google.

What led you to choose statistics as your field?

At some point during undergrad, I realized that the part of computer science that really interested me (machine learning) and the part of physics I found fascinating (uncertainty quantification) actually pointed to statistics!

Tell us about a project or piece of research you have worked on while here at UT.

I had a lot of fun working on my undergraduate thesis. I coded up a neural network in Java (in the dark ages before TensorFlow) and was exploring combining it with belief propagation to make better on-the-ground rainfall predictions from radar estimates.

Who is your role model, in the statistics field or otherwise?

He's not a major role model for me, but I think Matt Parker (@standupmaths on YouTube) is really awesome. He does lots of math videos for the general public, teaching about random facts and doing demos. He's known for doing things like flipping a coin (a real one, not a fake coin in R or Python) ~1000 times just to prove a point. I appreciate that he takes the time to make funny videos that also convey relatively complex information. 

What is your favorite song?

A few of my favorite songs, according to play count then cherry-picking: "Sunrise" by Brandon Heath, "Hanuman" by Rodrigo y Gabriela, "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin, "Deeds" by Sanctus Real, "Dinner and a Movie" by Jake Shimabukuro. Honestly, my favorite changes probably once a month, but that's a reasonable sample.

Vacation destination?

I think one of my favorite spots is Chamonix, France, at the foot of Mont Blanc. That's where the picture is from; look how happy I was!

If you were not here at UT, what would you be doing?

If I weren't here at UT, I'd probably be doing software engineering (hopefully with a statistics / data science / machine learning focus) somewhere like Google.

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