Left hook, right cross: Martial arts scientist Jason Thalken curates Real Scientists

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Jason Thalken (@JasonThalken) has a PhD in computational condensed matter physics from the University of Southern California, and bachelor’s degrees in physics, mathematics, and philosophy from the University of Texas. He is the inventor on eight patent applications for data science and modeling in the financial services industry, and one patent application for protecting the brain from trauma in such sports as boxing, MMA, and football. Jason has studied and competed in numerous martial arts styles since 1995 and has a black belt in hapkido under Grand Master Ho Jin Song. Jason Thalken resides in Seattle, Washington. Here’s a little more about Jason!

Why/How did you end up in science?
I knew I was going to be a scientist as early as six years old. Of course I thought I was going to be a paleontologist at first, because I loved dinosaurs, but I eventually realized physics was a much more natural fit for me.

Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?
I knew I was going to be a scientist as early as six years old. Of course I thought I was going to be a paleontologist at first, because I loved dinosaurs, but I eventually realized physics was a much more natural fit for me.

Tell us about your work?
I chose to investigate the physics of martial arts because I had a longstanding passion for both. I also had a longstanding distaste for TV shows and books that used “science” as a marketing tool or gimmick to push unconditional hype for martial arts.

I started doing data science in grad school, although it didn’t have such a sexy name back then. My dissertation was on optimization algorithms and I loved how there was this delicate balance between art and science when it came to getting things like genetic algorithms to work their magic.

Why should the lay public care about your research/work?
Like many other research topics, the research I do has an impact way beyond just martial arts. My investigation into the effects of safety gear in martial arts led to some counter-intuitive results that may help reduce the risk and severity of CTE in all sports.

Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?
Like many other research topics, the research I do has an impact way beyond just martial arts. My investigation into the effects of safety gear in martial arts led to some counter-intuitive results that may help reduce the risk and severity of CTE in all sports.

Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?
I’m working on my next book, which is a deep dive into nothing but punches.

How would you describe your ideal day off? 
Pizza, beer, and watching some MMA. :)

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