musings on music and life

May 28, 2015

Data Science 2015

Filed under: Data Science — Tags: — sankirnam @ 2:18 pm

It appears that the situation has not changed significantly since I talked about “Data Science” here a year ago; in fact, the field seems to be growing. Anecdotally, I hear through word-of-mouth that there is an increasing demand for “data scientists”*, and my job searches on online forums (e.g. LinkedIn) seem to bear this out.

*I use the term “data science/data scientists” in quotes because nobody has really been able to define it properly. It seems to be a mish-mash of statistics and computer science.

The growing demand for “data scientists” is reflected in the proliferation of “data science” bootcamps across the US. NYC Data Science, NewMet Data, Metis, and General Assembly all conduct short (1-3 month) bootcamps to train “data scientists” for the “sexiest” job of the 21st century.

Previously, “data science” bootcamps were using a PhD/PhD candidacy as a heuristic for the “analytical” skills required in “data science”, which confused me greatly. Fortunately, it looks like they have collectively come to their senses and realized that all that is necessary is some programming experience and a rudimentary knowledge of statistics. A degree, even an advanced degree in “STEM”, does not serve as an indicator of the aforementioned skillsets. In fact, one could game the system by simply taking the necessary classes in college, dropping out, and then applying to these bootcamps. An even better way would be to take the courses online for an even lower (or no (!)) cost.

Johns Hopkins University now offers a series of courses on Coursera as part of a “Data Science” Specialization track. I think this is their attempt to cash in on the “data science” trend, and from what I can tell, course reviews are rather mixed. The first one in the sequence, “The Data Scientist’s Toolbox” is extremely basic and can probably be completed in two hours or less (watching the video lectures is not necessary), as it seems to be geared to people who are complete novices even with Windows/MacOS. Based on that experience, you would think that the following course, “R Programming”, would also be aimed at a similarly green audience. WRONG. The course is poorly taught, with the video lectures rushing through key concepts. The online quizzes are fairly straightforward, if not a little confusing (I remember getting tripped up on a question related to lexical scoping in R). But the programming assignments are the tough part. For those without prior programming experience, let alone R experience, these are extremely difficult. The leap in difficulty in the assignments as the class progresses is just too much; I eventually had to drop the course for this reason (fortunately Coursera gave me a full refund). I plan to eventually take it again and complete it once I get more experience in computer science or R.

May 25, 2015

Sleeping Giant 3/3

Filed under: Photography — sankirnam @ 4:54 pm

These are the final set of photos that I’m uploading from my trip to CT and the Sleeping Giant earlier this month. I don’t feel like registering with Instagram in order to share photos, and besides, I have greater control over the formatting and layout here.

May 22, 2015

Job Postings, 5/22/2015

Filed under: Chemistry Jobs — sankirnam @ 3:50 pm


In that spirit:

1. Big Pharma! Pfizer has an available Senior Principal Scientist position in Process chemistry. PhD in organic chemistry with 7+ years experience required.

2. BioLegend is looking for a BS/MS organic chemist in San Diego (haven’t heard of this company before). 0-3 years experience needed!

3. Lab Support (again, haven’t heard of these guys) is looking for a BS chemist with 3-4 years experience for a 6-month contract. Seems a bit unusual, and $30/hr works out to $57.6k annually, which seems a bit on the low side, but hey, what do I know?

4. Aduro Biotech (Berkeley, CA) has an opening for BS/MS synthetic organic chemists with 0-8 years experience.
*0-8 years seems like a rather large spread for an opening like this…realistically speaking, would a candidate with 0 years experience be considered?

5. US Tech solutions (Sacramento) is looking for a BS chemist, 0-2 years experience. Seems to be basic lab grunt work, ideal for those who want a lower-level job to get their foot in the door and gain some industry experience.

May 21, 2015

Bvlgari Black

Filed under: Colognes — Tags: — sankirnam @ 2:23 pm

I got this a few months ago upon reading Luca Turin’s review in Perfumes: The A-Z guide. Since then, I’ve worn this cologne on and off on a number of occasions and grown to like it.


Bvlgari is more known for their women’s merchandise, such as dresses and handbags. Thus, it is surprising that such a well-known fashion house does not have that many popular fragrances. Black is surprisingly not that popular, and is only regarded by perfume aficionados. It was released in 1998 and designed by Annick Ménardo of Firmenich. Turin has this to say about Black:

“Binary accords having been exhausted, what she [Ménardo] did was increase the number of dimensions by one. Black sets out boldly into space on three axes: a big, solid, sweet amber note; a muted fifties Je Reviens floral note (benzylsalicylate) as green as a banker’s desk lamp; and finally a bitter-powdery, fresh rubber accord such as one encounters in specialist shops or while repairing a bicycle tire puncture”

My own experiences with the fragrance profile of Black are similar to Luca’s. I do notice 3 different smells coming together, but to my nose, the prominent ones are the burning rubber smell and a “vanillic” odor. Ménardo must be given credit for developing this “burning rubber” smell. Those who are familiar with the smell of actual burning rubber (or burning car tires) will be immediately repulsed as it has a very acrid, stinky, pungent odor. Burning rubber owes its awful smell to the breakdown of the disulfide crosslinkers; upon burning, these are released as thiols, which are notorious for their foul odors. On the other hand, what is in Black is merely reminiscent of that smell; it is actually Lapsang Souchong. The vanilla angle in this perfume is also rather pronounced (at least to me), so much so that this could actually be worn as a purely vanillic perfume if you are OK with the “burning rubber” angle.

Unlike other colognes, Black was constructed without an olfactory pyramid. Instead, one of the components will smell stronger than the other at different points in time, and this effect is pretty much uniform throughout the time it is worn. In my experience, which one is perceived as stronger seems to be a random effect. It could be that it is not at all random, since I have not tried to track this effect properly.

The shape of the bottle (reminiscent of a car tire) and the smoky angle may lead one to think that is a purely masculine cologne, but it is actually unisex. The bold vanilla angle makes one think of female executives being able to sport this perfume.

There are two more things that deserve mentioning. This perfume seems to evoke strong reactions in most of the people I know who have smelled it. There is no middle ground; you either absolutely love it or find it revolting. My father says that the smell reminds him of squashed bedbugs (!), but I guess the fact that I like this cologne means that I have managed to suppress those memories. The other thing is that the smoky odor here is fundamentally different from that found in other popular men’s colognes. Ralph Lauren Polo and Antaeus Pour Homme (Chanel) also have smoky odors, but those are derived from the use of tobacco.

This is available on Amazon. 75 ml EDT for $31, so it’s not that expensive. I wouldn’t say that this is a super strong perfume; the sillage is average. But keep in mind that this is like a work of art, so the beauty of this perfume is in the subtlety of design.

May 13, 2015

More from Sleeping Giant

Filed under: Photography — sankirnam @ 2:33 pm

More photos from the Sleeping Giant; these are fairly interesting to me in terms of composition. Again, these were taken with all the camera settings (aperture, ISO, shutter speed) on auto. Landscape shots seem to be best for practicing photography since you have time to think; when you take photos with people or animals as the primary subjects you often do not have time to think or plan properly.

Job Postings 5/13/2015

Filed under: Chemistry Jobs — sankirnam @ 2:09 pm

More job postings for this week!

1. Abbvie has a Scientist I position for BS/MS graduates. 2-5 years experience needed.

2. Unimin has a position for BS graduates with 5+ years of work experience. Seems to be a mineral processing position, so those with inorganic backgrounds will probably be preferred.

3. Gilead has an opening for a QC chemist! Requires a BS in chemistry with 2+ years experience. (I’m guessing this is probably already swamped with applications).

4. It’s always surprising to see Big Pharma positions advertised these days, in light of the news of massive layoffs of R+D scientists at all levels. Nonetheless, Celgene is looking for candidates for a Principal Scientist (Drug development) position in NJ. PhD with 8+ years experience required.

May 6, 2015


Filed under: Photography — sankirnam @ 11:34 am

I’ve recently taken to amateur photography. I always had an interest in this, but only now I was able to buy a decent camera and get started. I’ll upload photos here from time to time that pass my “stringent” (I’m sure this definition will evolve with time) quality standards.


This was taken at the Sleeping Giant State Park (Hamden, CT).

My current kit: Olympus E-PM2 camera with the standard 14-42 mm lens.

This was my first weekend playing around with the camera, and so I had just left all the settings on auto. I’m still learning about the basics of composition and the exposure triangle (also see here).

May 4, 2015

Job Postings – the first of many

Filed under: Chemistry Jobs — sankirnam @ 10:34 am

Since I am applying for jobs now, I scan online job boards quite frequently. Up till now, I was saving all the links for positions applicable for me as well as saving links for positions of interest to others. I was then sending those links to my friends and other individuals who I knew might be interested in those positions. Rather than doing that, I decided to post the links here so that a wider audience can be reached. The positions here will mainly be those for BS/MS positions in chemical industries, or any other positions that catch my eye but are not applicable for me (or anyone with a similar background).

Of course, the best resource for all things related to employment in the chemical industry is Chemjobber.

Let’s get started:

1. Thermochem, Inc. is looking for a BS Chemist for HPLC and other types of chromatography in Santa Rosa, CA. Entry level accepted.

2. Air Products is looking for a BS/MS chemist with 2 years experience for a Principle Research Technician position in Dallas. Seems to be a support staff position, but I’m not entirely sure.

3. If you are interested in cosmetics, this may be for you. Sundial (Amityville, NY) is looking for a BS chemist with 3-5 years experience for formulation and QA/QC work.

Concerts this weekend

Filed under: Carnatic Music — sankirnam @ 9:48 am

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Many thanks to Ashwin Iyer, Radha Rajagopalan, Abhishek Iyer and his family for organizing these concerts. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone in Edmonton again! If you are in the area, feel free to come! All are welcome.

EDIT: Clips from the concert!

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