Class of 2021: From Math to Music, Jon Gómez Pays Attention to Patterns
Jon Gómez, a master’s student in the University of Virginia’s School of Data Science, works as a software engineer, but fuels his passion for music through Argentinian tango and volunteering with the Charlottesville Municipal Band. Soon to graduate from the online M.S. in Data Science Program, Gómez has discovered many parallels between data science, math and music.
“I have always loved math, and simultaneously, I have always loved music,” he said. “I think in both of these domains, and paying attention to patterns helped me be successful in the data science program.”
A Charlottesville native with Argentinian roots, Gómez is excited to apply data science to various disciplines.
“My dad works in biomedical research, and I have always admired the work he does,” Gómez remarked. “He always tells me that biomedicine increasingly needs strong data scientists and bioinformaticians, which inspired me to return to school and pursue data science.”
Gómez studied math as an undergraduate at Christopher Newport University, but first started programming in elementary school.
“I’ve been programming since the fourth grade,” Gómez said. “I pulled down a book on BASIC, a general, high-level programming language, and I taught myself. By the time I went to CNU, I knew multiple programming languages already. I always loved nerding out with the other programming students, and knew I wanted to be a programmer after college.”
After graduating from CNU in 2008, Gómez worked in a couple of different programming jobs before landing his current job with Silverchair, a Charlottesville-based company that delivers technology and publishing platforms to scientific, medical and technical publishers. He started out in programming and software development, and soon after joined an area Python meetup, where he developed a passion for data science. Gómez remembered it all clicking for him after attending the TomTom Founders Festival Machine Learning Conference.
“Hearing from speakers and professional data scientists, it suddenly became real to me that data science was something I could do,” he recalled. “I loved computer science and I loved math. Data science mixes these two passions of mine, but would open career opportunities.”
Gómez chose the online Master of Science in Data Science program because he wanted to continue his work at Silverchair, and the program allowed him the flexibility to do both. It also allowed him to stay in Charlottesville close to his parents, both of whom work at UVA, and to complement his CNU degree with a UVA master’s.
Gómez not only brought his unique perspective and energy to the program, but he quickly became a leader among his peers and was instrumental in building the culture of the online program.
He was nominated to run for Student Council president for the online School of Data Science program, and was responsible for creating the first Student Council Charter for his master’s program, which launched in 2019. Working closely with School of Data Science faculty, administration and students, Gómez drafted a charter detailing the vision, mission and values of the relatively new program.
“Jon has been an asset to the program and his cohort since he started,” said Chauncey Smith, an assistant professor of education and online student success coach at UVA. “I remember meeting with him initially before classes began, and he was so energetic and ready to start. He has contributed so much to Student Council and to others in the program. He would drop into online study groups just to say hi to students in different cohorts, which would then turn into, ‘Let me help with your questions.’”
“I really wanted to foster a culture of assumed positive intent in the online MSDS program,” Gómez explained. “Especially in an online program where students are balancing work and school, it’s really important to create a healthy culture of positivity, inclusiveness and support.”
Gómez’s leadership shone through with his work leading the student council and also as a valuable peer among his classmates. Several credit Gómez for making complex data science concepts clear to them.
One classmate, Dr. Thomas Hartka, an assistant professor at the UVA Medical School, elaborated, “Jon brought considerably more technical knowledge to the program than many of us, but he was always willing to take time and teach his teammates along the way. I worked with him on a number of group projects, and not only was Jon a valuable contributor, but he has the ability to pull interesting information from a wide variety of resources and find connections. He certainly elevated the overall quality of the program.”
Gómez’s favorite course in the two-year program was “Exploratory Text Analytics,” taught by professor Rafael Alvarado. Gómez’s data science acumen and thoughtful leadership were clearly apparent inside the classroom as well.
“Jon is an exceptional student, the kind of student that every professor hopes for, one who speaks up in class, but defers to others, asks interesting questions, and offers thoughtful insights,” Alvarado said. “He is also a great peer, drawing out other students and not afraid to raise concerns in class. I may miss him as a student, but look forward to working with him as a fellow data scientist.”