Applied Mathematics, Statistics, and Scientific Computation Program - University of Maryland

Applied Mathematics & Statistics, and Scientific Computation

Dave Darmon


Dave Darmon

Research: Complex Systems
Undergraduate: Ursinus College
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Webpage: »
Why did you choose to come to AMSC?
I was initially drawn to UMD for its strong nonlinear dynamics community: the 'Father of Chaos' Jim Yorke and his counterpart in physics Ed Ott both work and teach here. What has ultimately impressed me about Maryland in general and the AMSC department in particular is the diversity of research opportunities within and between departments. My advisors are a professor in the physics department who did her PhD research under an applied mathematician and a professor in the business school who did his PhD research in a computer science department. Modern science is becoming more and more interdisciplinary, and the professors affiliated with the AMSC department understand and facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas.


What are your research interests and why?
My general research interests revolve around applying modern statistical methods to research questions arising out of the study of complex systems. In the trenches, I'm currently working on applying non-parametric modeling techniques to dynamics occurring in social systems. A fancy way of saying that I study how people interact on Twitter, with the aim of understanding how local behavior in a social system leads to global behaviors like the spread of information or the formation of social groups. The field of computational social science has just begun to enter a stage where both data and methods are available for answering meaningful questions about social dynamics. This allows us to go beyond both purely empirical models ('just look at the data') and purely theoretical models ('posit models that may have no basis in reality') to hybrid approaches that capture observed behavior in interpretable models.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I spend a lot of my free time learning new techniques in statistics that can only tangentially be traced back to my research. When I'm not learning random facts in science and mathematics, I'm usually reading or binging on seasons of some new (to me) show on Netflix.


What are your favorite parts of the greater Washington DC area?
The proximity of College Park to DC is a definite plus: a trip from the Math building to the heart of DC takes thirty minutes on public transit. Growing up outside of a major city, it's nice to have all of the associated amenities of a city (restaurants, museums, concerts, bars) so close by. In a car, the Beltway traffic offers lots of opportunities to practice equanimity, daydream, or plow through a backlog of podcasts.


What advice would you give to incoming students?
I have two pieces of advice. First, get to know both the graduate students in your incoming class and in more senior years. Your incoming cohort of students will offer social, emotional, and intellectual support throughout your entire graduate school experience. The older students can offer perspective on many of the milestones along your path to a PhD. Second, stay open to fields of study outside of what you focused on as an undergraduate. Especially if you came from a small undergraduate program, you have only seen a tiny sliver of what different mathematical and scientific disciplines have to offer. As a personal example, I entered the AMSC program certain I would never do any work with statistics, and now the bulk of my work revolves around developing and applying new statistical methods. Take advantage of the flexibility of the AMSC course plan to explore new fields and avenues of research.


Story posted 10/28/2013


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