Probable Baseball – Nick Wan joins Real Scientists!

We’re excited to have our newest Real Scientists moderator Nick Wan (@nickwan) curate the account this week! Nick has a PhD in neuroscience from Utah State University, and is now a data scientist with the Cincinnati Reds. You can read more about Nick and his research below.

How I ended up in science: I was initially trying to become a pharmacist when I got to college and that led me to chemistry research. I transferred to a different university and someone in psychology said I could do instrumentation and analysis in psych, except my data would come from brains and not chemicals. I gave it a shot and I ended up doing neuroscience from then until now.

How I ended up in baseball: sometime last year I was looking for post-docs and I ended up getting verbal confirmation from one lab that they would take me in the following year. So I decided to apply to jobs that I would take over my post doc fellowship, which included jobs in sports analytics. The Reds ended up calling me back and now here I am. I always liked doing sports analytics and applying different analytic techniques to an area that I felt more people could relate to (i.e. sports data). It was originally a way for me to solidify what my processing techniques were actually doing – I didn’t want to just be blindly selecting filtering techniques without knowing how they worked on some basic level. When I found out that people in sports actually valued this sort of stuff, it made me dive into it more. Now, that’s basically my job.

I unfortunately can’t say much about what I specifically do, but I can say it’s been pretty fun getting able to wake up every morning and go to lab. But in this case, my lab space is in Great American Ballpark and I get to see data in action 81 days out of the year just outside of my lab space. Unsure if the lay public really would care about my work specifically – but the work all of the front office does to put a competitive product on the field and in the ballpark would probably be the thing the lay public would care more about than anything. From a more science spin, sports analytics is a fantastic melting pot for many different career paths in sports and media that I only knew existed a year or so ago. So science in general doesn’t have to be rigid and particular to only a few different career options – sports and many, many different fields that value science and analytics are available and ready for capable folks to walk through their doors. I get paid to watch sports. That’s pretty cool if you like sports.

In my spare time I play guitar. And I lift, bro. Weirdly enough, my ideal day off is having enough time and feeling energized enough to work on the several papers lingering from grad school. Papers might not be so valuable for me in this particular industry, but papers are definitely more valuable to the collaborators who are also authors on these papers-to-be.

Please welcome Nick to Real Scientists!

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