Steven States | Data Scientist
Johns Hopkins University
Department: Applied Physics Lab
Education: B.S. Applied Mathematics, Virginia Military Institute, 2014; M.S. Applied Mathematics, Johns Hopkins University, 2017
Career stage: Early—3 years post Bachelor’s
What He Does
Stephen is a survivability analyst for Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) who helps develop engagement level models and simulations to help determine performance and survivability of SAMs. These models are physics based, using differential equations, probability, and matrix theory. In addition to running these models, data visualization is extremely important. Being able to summarize results concisely in a few charts is one of the more challenging aspects of the job.
Necessary Job Skills
Mathematics is extremely important in Stephen’s work at APL as he models problems that might not have well defined parameters or extensive system intelligence. He and his colleagues must use what they do know, along with their mathematical knowledge, to solve these problems.
I got good grades in college. I thought I was set. However, there are so many things I needed to learn to even begin using my degree.
Pros and Cons of His Job
I am continually fascinated with the application of math in everyday problems. Being able to use what I’ve spent years learning (and continue to learn) is the best aspect of my job.
Stephen has a great work-life balance—as long as his work is being done, he is pretty flexible.
After high school, Stephen accepted an Army ROTC scholarship to attend the Virginia Military Institute. Initially, his major was civil engineering, however, after a few semesters, he realized he was enjoying his math courses more than his engineering courses, so he decided to switch his major to applied mathematics. Even after he changed his major, his plan was to serve in the Army after college, but during his senior year, he was offered a job at JHU/APL. The opportunity to continue his math education was extremely appealing, so he decided to accept the offer and an Army Reserves Commission instead of serving in the active duty Army. He considers himself fortunate to be part of the strong alumni network at VMI.
Career Expectations and Advice
“If you don’t understand something, ask about it.”
If you do not understand something, ask about it—most people are willing to share their knowledge with you. Also, find a mentor; they can answer some of these questions for you.
Beginning Career: $70,000–$80,000 / Mid Career: $100,000–$110,000 / Late Career: $120,000–$160,000
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