I mainly work on problems in stellar astrophysics, planetary science, machine learning, quantum mechanics/condensed matter physics, automating control of robotic telescopes and satellites, and scientific computing in general.

Here's a photo of me at a conference of the American Astronomical Society.

Here's a photo of me presenting some results at an international conference on stellar astrophysics in Spain, and also me sitting next to the famous astronomer Wojciech Dziembowski. I poured some water for him, but he didn't drink it =\

Here's a photo of me at the National Laboratory of Astrophysics in Brasil. I wish I got a picture with me and one of the telescopes!

Here is an (admittedly bad) photo of me and the Mars Curiosity Rover at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab.

Edit: Let me know if I need to do something more to confirm my identity.

Comments: 148 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

lululaplap29 karma

How did you get into the industry? what courses did you do at Uni? If you could re-name one planet or moon, what would it be?

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

These are good questions. I got in by asking and taking the advice of the wise people I know. I applied for every opportunity I could find.

I took lots of programming, math, and physics classes. I also did as much independent research with my professors as I could do.

I really like the names of the planets and moons! Most stars however have really boring names. If I had the authority I would name one after my biggest influence, my mentor Shashi.



TheSwitchBlade13 karma

I went to a public university in New York. I graduated summa with two science degrees. Now I'm pursuing a doctorate at Indiana University. This is my fifth year of college.

Plankk10 karma

How old are you?!

TheSwitchBlade27 karma

I'm the ripe old age of 22.

olivegardenbutthole8 karma

What is your favorite book?

TheSwitchBlade6 karma

I have a lot of favorites!

For cognition I love Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. It won the Pulitzer for uniting logic, music, art, math, and physics into a(n in)coherent masterpiece.

For outer space I enjoyed Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. For statistics and randomness I liked The Drunkard's Walk by the coauthor of the new edition of BHoT, Leonard Mlodinow.

I also recommend Abbott's Flatland, Asimov's Last Question, Borges' Library of Babel, and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

I would love some reading recommendations in return!

F_d_ANCONIA1 karma

Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Contact.

TheSwitchBlade1 karma

Thanks! I have been meaning to read those. I'll let you know what I think!

beccaelainenichols7 karma

So... aliens?

TheSwitchBlade13 karma

This is why I said almost anything. The things I wish I could tell you...

Weevle5 karma

How many push-ups can you do? And do they have an impact on the way NASA decides to ultimately pick up its astronauts?

TheSwitchBlade11 karma

I just did ten for you.

kevin110405 karma


TheSwitchBlade16 karma

I wrote software for the Cassini mission to Saturn. In particular I created a system that ensured messages being sent a billion kilometers through space would arrive safely to the satellite.

I'll answer your second question with a photo a little bit later. Right now I'm walking out the door to take my niece and nephew rollerskating, so I'll be back soon!

memelah6 karma

Wow, my uncle introduced me to the Cassini mission updates a few years ago and I can honestly say it was one of the driving forces behind my eventual love for astronomy and physics. I couldn't get enough of it. This is so cool to hear. Thanks for doing this AMA. :)

TheSwitchBlade5 karma

Thanks, I'm happy to do it!

the_girl1 karma

Quick question, no disrespect: why would you post an AMA and then leave immediately?

TheSwitchBlade5 karma

I'm not gone, I can still post text but not pictures until I'm off my phone. I am however saving some of the questions until I can type up a detailed response.

ko8903174 karma

how do you feel about current budget crisis that's affecting NASA more than any other agencies? think private enterprise will eventually take over what NASA used to do?

TheSwitchBlade7 karma

It's a tragedy. I really think some people go to sleep at night and do not dream. What good is a dollar if it isn't being used to bring us closer to understanding the universe we inhabit? Certainly the problems we face in life can be solved by getting a more firm grasp on how the world really works.

I do think private space industries have a bright future, and given the opportunity I would be happy to do work with them.

obidead4 karma

You're adorable

TheSwitchBlade4 karma

I hope you mean that in a good way!

obidead4 karma

Yes! Not in a condescending way. You're swell!

TheSwitchBlade3 karma

Ha, thanks.

hilitefilm213 karma

Quantum physics, or general relativity?

TheSwitchBlade33 karma


I_go_faster_than_c3 karma

First off, congrats on your accomplishments! You look so young!

Before I ask questions, it might help to know what level of education you're at. Post-doc? Grad student? Undergrad? High school?

It's my opinion that anyone with an interest in science can become a scientist, so I'm not sure which level to put you at! My questions will change based on your response.


TheSwitchBlade3 karma

Thanks! I'm a phd student at Indiana University, and I agree with that last statement wholeheartedly.

MikeJoeShmoe2 karma

What's would be your advice for standing out from the crowd in terms of jobs, interviews, etc? Also, what do you do in your spare time?

Best wishes

TheSwitchBlade6 karma

Be nice and work hard. If a hundred candidates are more or less equally qualified, the employer will select the one they most want to spend their time with.

I spend most of my free time composing music in Guitar Pro and recording the parts on the guitar, bass, and drums. I've been studying music for most of my life now. Oh, and I also play a lot of League of Legends...

Milith2 karma

What's the space related thing you hope the most you will be able to witness someday?

TheSwitchBlade3 karma

I hope for at least these two major ones: to begin inhabiting other worlds, and to create a detailed map of the galaxy.

I also hope to witness personally space events. I would do anything to become an astronaut.

-dsp-2 karma

Is there any jobs in NASA for someone who loves space and videography/photography!? Please say yes!

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

Yes! Absolutely there is.

Pianoplunkster2 karma

Man. You smart kids depress me. I'm the same age and I just finished undergrad... I'm applying to grad school in atmospheric science; I know this isn't really your field of expertise, but do you think that NASA will be placing more emphasis on fields like these now that less research money is being devoted to the space program?

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

NASA has always emphasized atmospheric science, so I think you'll do just fine :)

brak_loves_atari1 karma

what did you get for cake day?

TheSwitchBlade3 karma

Lots of good questions! :)

jsun3651 karma

What advice would you have for someone who also wants to work for NASA? What college(s) and major(s) would be best to get to NASA with?

TheSwitchBlade1 karma

People from all walks of life work there. That being said, the most common major is aerospace engineering.

KariasMike1 karma

Aliens, do they exist?

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

Most probably.

[deleted]1 karma


TheSwitchBlade1 karma

I thought it might be cold outside. But in fact it was not...

Tuchit1 karma

If you don't mind me asking, what is your IQ?

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

No idea! I don't think it would benefit me to find out.

MidgardDragon1 karma

How does it feel to know you'll always be second-fiddle in internet fame to the sideburns guy from the Curiosity launch? ;)

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

Not too bad, actually. That guy is pretty cool. I worked upstairs from him this summer.

benanna881 karma

Is there anything that we should know that NASA hides from us?? Like a giant comet or something?

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

Not at all. The only things NASA keeps private are technologies that would benefit their competitors. In contrast, all discoveries are announced immediately: it benefits the individual scientists and NASA itself to be the first to make any such announcement. Moreover NASA publicly releases the data they accumulate, so if they discovered something but did not announce it, it would not be long before someone else did.

fireballs6191 karma

Where did you attend school and what did you get your degree in?

TheSwitchBlade4 karma

I have B.Sc. degrees in computer science and applied math from the Oswego State University of New York. I'm a doctoral student at Indiana University now, although I'm going to Japan to make robots for a while instead of taking classes.

Compulsive_Liar_AMA3 karma

Whoa, Japan? Robots? Like, those robots that look human?

TheSwitchBlade3 karma

Not quite. I make the minds of machines, not their bodies.

combustionman1 karma

I would give anything to work for NASA. What was your major in college and was NASA always the plan, or just an opportunity you found later?

TheSwitchBlade1 karma

I studied computer science, math, and physics. I also spent considerable time studying philosophy, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence.

I've always admired the work done by NASA but never thought I would get to be a part of it. I feel very fortunate and thankful.

towhook1821 karma

Elaborate on this being your cake day please, also what kind of phone do you use?

TheSwitchBlade1 karma

This is the day where I get cake. Does that clear it up?

HTC inspire.

Grandicus1 karma

Was it hard to find employment initially? Seeing as you're only 22 and already doing this kind of stuff I'd imagine not, but I'm going to be starting college as a space physics major so I'm curious as to how difficult it was to find employment.

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

Honestly the trick is to put yourself out there. Apply for many competitive things that you might not get, especially if the only cost is time.

AncientMarinade1 karma

Are people today going to see another 'Curiosity-like-rover' land on another planet within our lifetimes?

TheSwitchBlade1 karma

Unless catastrophe occurs I think it is very likely.

arizoma1 karma

And I thought I was doing good as a Systems Analyst at 21. Damn you...and great job!

TheSwitchBlade2 karma

Great job to you too!

neonstentor1 karma

Late to the party but you sir are awesome! And quite cute I might add! I wish i had the smarts to do that sort of thing.

Stay excellent!

TheSwitchBlade1 karma


Zeike1 karma

Are you a time cop?

TheSwitchBlade3 karma

No. Of course not. Don't be ridiculous... How do you know about time cops?!

[deleted]1 karma


TheSwitchBlade10 karma

It seems very unlikely, which is why we'll have to work extra hard to make it a reality.

Froghurt4 karma

On that note, do you believe in the existence of extraterrestial life in the universe? And do you believe they have already visited us in the past? Happy birthday by the way.

TheSwitchBlade9 karma

I think it is highly probable that extraterrestrial life exists, but that it is very unlikely that they visited us in the past. I think a lot of popular sources making these claims dramatically underestimate the capacity of humans to think and perform without modern computers. We're a pretty smart species.

FourCounters3 karma

Why do you believe it is unlikely?

TheSwitchBlade3 karma

I have not seen good evidence for it.

Bryceybryce1 karma

Are you also a young atheist? Does being atheist make you a scientist? Does being a scientist make you an atheist? If you are an atheist does that still make you a theist?

Actual question: Where did you go to school and how did you like La Canada? Also did you spend any time at Caltech? I live in the area and a decent amount of my friends' parents work at JPL and Caltech and I hear the atmosphere, if you are a science person which if you are working there you definitely are, is unbeatable. Plus you get to live in SoCal so it's a win win right?

TheSwitchBlade5 karma

Science has not removed the possibility of the divine. It has however illustrated the immense improbability of the claims made in ancient texts. Personally I do not believe in any supernatural or non physical entities, but I do not necessarily think their existence is contradictory. Hence my belief in the existence of God is less strong than an implausible but possible event like, say, me winning the lottery--I did not play, but perhaps I will stumble upon the winning ticket on the street--but more strong than my belief in the existence of impossible objects like square circles.

To me the cosmos are god, and Her magnificence far exceeds all other conceptions.

descartesbedamned1 karma

How Spinozan of you.

TheSwitchBlade2 karma


frohardorfrohome0 karma


TheSwitchBlade0 karma

I wish I could but I cannot.

Bangbangbanitybang2 karma


TheSwitchBlade2 karma

How will you know if the anonymous account is sharing legitimate information? Someone could masquerade as the anonymous me and spread falsehoods!

wabudd10 karma

No questions just:

  1. You're really cute.
  2. Your intelligence intimidates me.

TheSwitchBlade1 karma

You're too kind!