Apr 16 2010
We don’t know how many people get their information first-hand from us, second-hand from other friends and family, or second/third-hand from a mailing list that may or may not have correct information, so I thought I’d better give some long overdue updates. First, to dispel rumors due to some sort of event being advertised on some Harvard e-mail lists, I am not, nor do I ever plan to be, a student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. That’d be the Other Seth Flaxman, Columbia BA ’07, Harvard MPP ’11. Confusing, I know. Maybe a reason to change my last name?
Which brings me to announcement #1: Jackie and I are engaged! Here’s a pic to prove it:
And announcement #2: Jackie and I are staying in Switzerland for one more year. Jackie has decided to continue on to her PhD at IHEID. This requires two more semesters on campus. She has the support of a Davis scholarship from the same incredible woman, Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who funded the 100 Projects for Peace (now just called “Davis Projects for Peace” since I guess it’s way more than a hundred) on the occasion of her hundredth birthday. Davis got her PhD from HEI (the institute that turned into IHEID) in 1934. Her husband was the ambassador to Switzerland from 1969 to 1975. More here. After next year, Jackie will be free to go wherever she needs to do archive-based research for her dissertation and to write her dissertation.
Specifically, she’ll be based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA due to announcement #3: I’ve deferred my admission to a new program at Carnegie Mellon University, a joint PhD in Machine Learning and Public Policy. This program is joint with Heinz College, CMU’s public policy (and information) school. So I’ll start in the fall of 2011, and Jackie and I won’t have to do the long-distance thing. (What this really means is that with me at a public policy school, the potential for confusion with the other Seth Flaxman only grows.)
A final word: I was very fortunate to start a PhD this year at EPFL. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, gotten to work on a few hard and interesting problems and hear about the work of many other people on many other such problems. I benefited from the experience greatly. The reason I’m leaving is ultimately because of the CMU program’s unique focus on computer science and public policy. Recently created new conferences like the Artificial Intelligence for Development suggest this is an exciting new area. Like every new application of computer science to other fields (biology, economics, linguistics, epidemiology) it’s really important for the work to be rigorous as far as that other field is concerned, which means an understanding of that field’s particular methods, tools, questions, and formalisms, many (most) of which may be foreign to computer scientists. In particular, I have the chance to take classes in public policy and receive training and a strong grounding in public policy with other doctoral students in public policy, while being part of the world’s best (only?) department of machine learning. I’m excited.
Now, the final question: what am I doing next year? A good question. A very good question. Got a job in Switzerland for me?