Dominique Simmons – Applied Research Scientist at DimensionalMechanics
Life Inside the Lab:
What is your research topic? I conduct AI (Artificial Intelligence) research. I design and run cognitive experiments (e.g. decision-making, perception, visual attention) and use the human data to inform how to build these cognitive components our AI platform. I also build AI models for the platform. I’m currently working on a natural language processing model.
Dominique Simmons is an Applied Research Scientist at DimensionalMechanics working on Artificial Intelligence. Follow her on Twitter at @artsci00
What was your best day of science? When my code works!
What was your worst day in science? When I have no clue why my code won’t work.
What did you study at university? I studied multisensory perception for my Master’s work. It’s the study of how the senses integrate and influence one another.
What does your average day look like? Writing, coding, and thinking of ways to apply higher-level concepts to code.
What are some of the highlights of your career? Learning to program in MATLAB early in my career as a lab manager was a total game changer. It opened up so many doors as I could then think in coding terms and translate from the abstract to the more technical.
Life Outside of Lab:
Where did you grow up? San Diego, California (why did I ever leave??)
What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? It’s funny because I think a lot of people remember the outlandish job ideas they had as a kid. I wanted to be a psychologist and it stuck. I thought of other options like being an interpreter but psychology never faded out.
What do you do to relax outside of lab? Aside from cooking I love going to concerts! I’m a huge music fan so it’s great to be in that type of environment for a couple of hours.
What is your family life like? My mother raised me as a single parent while taking courses at a local community college. She eventually wrapped up coursework at a 4-year university. I was so proud to watch her graduate with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Business Administration. Her work made me realize that there was no excuse not to pursue my dreams.
Why were your drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? How close was your schooling related to your current job? I have always been fascinated by the brain. I figured that’s what makes people do the things that they do. I also wondered about their perspective and how they saw the world. Those childhood curiosities still resonate in my work today.
What was your biggest challenge during your degree? An unanticipated (and major) lack in support from department faculty. By the time I found potential mentors, I was already mentally done. Part of the way through my PhD work I turned to industry as a refuge, defended my Master’s thesis, and accepted my current position. I hope current and future students find the support they need so that they never have to go through what I went through.
What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Learning can be a lot of fun but it’s not always easy. That’s where a “can-do” attitude is critical. Believe that you CAN and WILL get to a solution and you will get there.
Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? Diversity in thought breeds innovation. That applies to the lab, the office, and the classroom. Women, like other underrepresented groups in STEM fields, can greatly contribute to that diversity in thought. We need lots of ideas from people of different walks of life to build better technology, better algorithms, and better products.
- What is your favorite desk snack? Blackberries. They’re great as a mid-morning snack!
- What is your favorite cartoon? Gumball. My step-kids introduced me to it and I’ve been hooked ever since. The character development and humor are what draw me in.
- What would you listen to while writing? A Vitamin String Quartet playlist. I still get to listen to guilty pleasures and be able to focus.
- What was your favorite subject in high school? Marine biology. Taking field trips to the beach to find different kinds of seaweed was a win-win situation.
- What color socks are you wearing? Gray! I have upped my sock game and now wear a different color each day.
Follow Dominique on Twitter @artsci00