Thom Lake is the lead data scientist at Atlas Wearables. As the spearhead of our machine learning and data science initiatives, Thom designs the algorithms that allow Atlas to recognize activities, count repetitions, and analyze form. His background is in computer science and mathematics – with a heavy focus on machine learning. Outside of his work with Atlas, Thom enjoys keeping up with the state of the art in natural language processing, drinking coffee, and armchair theorizing about cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and the scientific method in general.
Your educational experience was pretty extraordinary, tell us more about it.
I've always enjoyed engaging in creative activities, everything from music to literature, but I wasn't introduced to programming until around the age of 23 (much later than most people I know working in the field) when I decided to go back to college as a non-traditional student. Around a year later I fell in love with mathematics. What really stood out to me was the beauty behind mathematical proofs – it’s a side of math of most people don’t ever see, I certainly hadn't. It just sort of spiraled out of control from there.
So your first experience programming was when you were about 23? What was the first language you picked up?
The first language I learned was Pascal in an introductory programming class. More important than the language, was the instructor's insistence that we include a flowchart for every assignment. It might sound a little cliche, but I feel like creating those diagrams helped me build the cognitive structures I've been using to reason about computation ever since.
What’s life in your hometown Kalamazoo, MI like?
The biggest change has been the weather, Kalamazoo is cold 5 months out of the year and rainy for another 4. I miss that contrast. Aside from that, Austin has been great. It helps that my best friend (whom I've been married to for 11 years) is here with me. One thing a I will say about Michigan is the Great Lakes are beautiful. They ice over near the shore in the winter, and you get these alien structures that resemble frozen waves. It is definitely worth seeing.