I am currently a software application developer at Caltech, working on software for the European Space Agency's Euclid mission. I am also the principal developer of NebulOS—a Big Data platform, specifically intended for scientific data analysis. In April 2016, I finished working on the photometric redshift estimation pipeline simulation for the proposed Caltech/JPL mission, SPHEREx. Please note that I am not currently seeking employment.
This website is intended to provide more detail than a standard résumé. Please explore the site to learn about my skills and experience. In many cases, clicking a keyword or phrase reveals more details. For example, clicking the link below reveals a timeline of my academic and professional milestones.
- First exposure to theoretical physics
1995As a freshman in high school, I read A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking. This was my first exposure to quantum mechanics, general relativity, and cosmology.
- Studied physics in high school
1997I studied physics for the first time my junior year of high school. I learned that physics was not as hard as I had previously been led to believe. I answered all quiz and test problems and questions correctly.
- Graduated from high school
1999I graduated from Fort Defiance High School in Fort Defiance, Virginia.
- Began college as physics major
1999I became the first person in my family to attend a university. I studied physics at James Madison University, a liberal arts school with a strong physics department.
- Studied digital electronics
2000I learned basic transistor-transistor logic (TTL), resistor-transistor logic (RTL), and basic circuit elements. I was also introduced to common circuits, like flip-flops and the 555 timer.
- Began learning basic CPU microarchitecture
2000The year 2000 was a very exciting time, with respect to x86 CPU evolution. Intel and AMD competed fiercely. The speed of the Pentium III and Athlon CPUs doubled in less than 12 months. I spent much of my free time learning the basics of how these CPUs work. My recently-gained knowledge of digital electronics and physics was quite beneficial. I also began building and upgrading computers during this period.
- Studied numerical algorithms
2002As a physics major, I was required to take a math course in numerical algorithms and numerical analysis. After a brief introduction to Fortran 90, I completed several small projects that involved designing and implementing numerical algorithms. This was my first experience with computer programming.
- Studied computational physics
2002I decided to study computational physics because it combined two of my interests: physics and computers. I quickly learned MATLAB in order to complete the programming assignments in this course. I gained some experience with Monte Carlo methods and numerically solving differential equations with boundary conditions—fun stuff!
- Studied introductory astrophysics
2003During my final semester of college, I enrolled in an upper-level course in astrophysics and a lower-level survey course in astronomy. I quickly became interested in theoretical aspects of astrophysics. Galaxy simulations were particularly interesting to me.
- Completed Bachelor's degree in physics
2003.05Became the first person in my family to complete a four-year degree.
- Began learning C++
2004I began learning C++ out of curiosity. I primarily used the C subset of the language because I was under the impression that this would result in significantly faster executables.
- Began teaching high school physics
2005.08I began teaching high school at Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia in order to pay tuition for graduate school and gain professional teaching experience.
- Began working on master's degree
2005.08I enrolled in George Mason University's Applied and Engineering Physics master's program. I taught high school during the day and attended classes in the evenings.
- Studied graduate-level computational physics
2006Gained more experience with computational physics. Wrote more complicated algorithms than in my undergraduate courses.
- Studied tensor calculus
2006During the summer of 2006, my mathematical skills grew significantly because I studied tensor calculus intensively. This set the stage for success in the remainder of my physics courses.
- Studied computational fluid dynamics
2007I studied CFD under the guidance of Rainald Löhner beginning in the Fall semester of 2007. Since the professor had significant experience in industry (he still had an office at SAIC), he gave me insights into the world outside of academia.
- Studied plasma physics & space physics
2007I independently studied plasma physics and everything else needed to understand the interaction between the Sun and Earth's magnetosphere. My master's project involved developing a code to model the inner region of Earth's magnetosphere.
- Stopped teaching high school
2007.06After teaching for two years, I decided to spend the final year of my master's degree as a full-time student.
- Became full-time graduate student
2007.06I began working as a research assistant / graduate student researcher during the summer of 2007 in order to begin doing research for my master's project.
- Began using GNU/Linux full-time
2007.11When Ubuntu 7.10 was released, I installed it as the primary OS on my workstation at work, my desktop at home, and my laptop.
- Completed master's degree
2008.05Completed my master's degree in Applied and Engineering Physics.
- Began Ph.D. coursework
2008.09I moved to California and began working toward a Ph.D. in physics at UC Riverside.
- Passed comprehensive exam in physics
2009.06I passed the 2009 comprehensive examination in physics at the Ph.D. level on the first attempt. Only one other domestic student passed on the first attempt.
- Began studying software engineering
2009.07I began preparing to do research in computational astrophysics. A major component of my preparation involved learning more about software engineering principles. I had previously been rather sloppy when writing code.
- Designed Ph.D. dissertation project
2010Designed a galaxy simulation project that complemented my advisor's research. It involved studying the evolution of stellar velocity dispersion during galaxy mergers by analyzing the dynamics of merger simulations in unprecedented detail.
- Became fluent in C++
2010After using C++ heavily for over a year and reading several C++ books, I gained a high degree of proficiency.
- Learned Python
2010I began using Python to do plotting, automation, data analysis, and rapid prototyping.
- Advanced to Ph.D. candidacy
2010.12I passed my oral qualifying examination and completed my coursework, thus advancing to Ph.D. candidacy.
- Began using the Qt framework
2011I began using the Qt framework to add a GUI to my galaxy simulation analysis code, GSnap. I soon began using many non-GUI features as well.
- Received research grant
2011A Hubble Space Telescope theory proposal that I wrote was funded. It provided me with two years of funds for tuition, benefits, and salary as a graduate student researcher.
- Taught university physics
2011I became the first physics graduate student at UC Riverside to teach a course as an instructor, rather than as a teaching assistant.
- Began studying statistics
2011Motivated by my research project and curiosity, I began studying statistics in more depth.
- Completed Ph.D. in physics
2013.12I successfully defended my Ph.D. dissertation.
- Began job as Assistant Project Scientist
2014.07I began working on a Big Data framework specifically designed for scientists.
- Began working on SPHEREx photo-z
2015.10.01Began working with Caltech / JPL scientists to improve the fidelity, robustness, and performance of the photometric redshift estimation pipeline for SPHEREx---a proposed all-sky survey mission.
Nathaniel R. Stickley