David Hampton PhD'19, Neuroscience: Data Scientist, DCI Solutions
Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?
One important thread throughout my career has been that the more that I do a type of task, the easier it is to continue doing that type of task. As an undergraduate I was pre-med and got a BS in chemistry. During that time, I started working as a research assistant. I had a mind for math and logic and always found that I enjoyed the analysis part of research. Over the course of several research jobs at the University of New Mexico, The Mind Research Network, and Tufts I taught myself Matlab to perform more complex analyses. During my PhD work at Brandeis I joined the Marder lab which has a computational focus. My mentor, Eve Marder, always prodded me to take a closer look at my data, and I developed my own unique analysis method for my thesis work. My research experience laidthe foundation for enrolling in a data science bootcamp through The Data Incubator (TDI) after graduating. TDI helped me find my current position as a Data Scientist.
What services and/or resources did you use while at Brandeis for your career search?
When I enrolled at Brandeis I wanted to become a neuroscience professor. About two years before graduating, I realized that professorship was probably not going to work for me, and I started exploring other options. Initially I thought thatI wanted to get involved in entrepreneurship and venture capital. I did I-Corps, a summer program at Brandeis that teaches scientists how to make a product out of their inventions. I developed a mentorship relationship with a professor at the business school and took a couple of business classes. Through this process I gained valuable experiences, one of which was the realization that business was probably was not the right direction for me. I assessed my skills and started conducting informational interviews with Brandeis alumni who had jobs that loosely related to my skill set to explore a range of possibilities. Data science stuck out because it wasn’t too far off from my skill set and seemed like something that I would really enjoy. Once I was sure of this path, I talked to Eve Marder, the professor I worked for about my decision. She helped to connect me with additional alumni from her lab to help navigate the application process for enrolling in The Data Incubator, which had helped to launch him as a data scientist. While applying for jobs I had someone from the Center for Career and Professional Development edit my resume and LinkedIn profile. Each of these steps helped me in figuringout my career path.
What skills from your Brandeis degree have you found most valuable in your current work?
The hardest thing to teach is to think critically. I have spoken with industry leaders that have hired data scientists who studied data science in undergraduate and masters’ programs. One piece of feedback that stands out is that these new hires have the skills, but often require a high degree of handholding to find useful tasks to apply their skills to. My PhD taught me to be my own project manager and to communicate and advocate for my work effectively to a widerange of audiences through written and oral means. When I enrolled in Brandeis’ PhD program I never realized that those would be some of the most valuable skills that I would learn.
What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their career exploration or job search?
It is never too early to start exploring your career and developing meaningful relationships with people that will help you on that journey. Get outside of your comfort zone and ask people who have what you want how they got there. Utilize the resources available to you as a Brandeis student, including mentors/teachers, career counselors, peers, and alumni. I was given the advice to ‘network’ to find the right job. My vision of what that meant was handing out business cards at a career fair. While that’s never a bad idea, I got much better results activating the network I had all along. This network included people I already knew, those who work hard to help students through this awkward phase of life (career office) and those who had been in my shoes (alumni). As a recent alumnus myself I can say that there are few things more gratifying than getting the opportunity to help a fellow Brandesian embark upon their career.