Student Feature: Cailin Simpson

Cailin Simpson is a Ph.D. student in Systems Engineering and software engineer & data analyst in the advanced materials department at Dynetics Technical Solutions, Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama.

Simpson’s doctoral research, advised by Steve Simske, is focused on applications of data analytics and data science. She received her B.S. in computer science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2019.

How do you implement systems-thinking in your job?

My current position has the responsibilities of a “full stack developer plus anything else you can think of” (literally a quote from my boss). In my position, I do everything from system architecture design, full stack web development, data pipeline creation and maintenance, system administration, and data analysis.

Those responsibilities require a breadth and depth of understanding of many topics and a systems approach to continue to incorporate the best practices and allow the systems to be scalable. Scalability is key to success of the software systems I help to create because they work to support a R&D effort that requires the collection and analysis of data across thousands of experiments.

And in your life outside of work?

In my personal life I also apply systems thinking to almost anything I do. What do I want for dinner? I talk through trade studies with my significant other on which restaurant is better for tonight’s dinner.

I am currently house hunting and have separated the types of homes we are looking for into models that can be applied to listings as we look (to see if the homes fit the model). All that to say, I apply systems thinking in everything I do, much to my family’s dismay.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working/taking classes?

I enjoy doing outdoor activities with my dogs. I’m an avid true crime podcast listener. I’m not sure how that came to be, but it is a mental break I enjoy taking each week.

Most of all, I love to travel. Vacation planning is one of my favorite activities (likely because I can control the budget, stakeholders, requirements, etc.)

What’s the last book you read?

The last book I (re)read was “Why We Can’t Wait” by Dr. Martin Luther King. I picked it back up in light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. I read it in high school as an assignment, but reading this as an adult really changed my perspective on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the sacrifice it took to incite change. If you haven’t read it, it’s a good time to pick it up.

A quote that is moving from the novel and feels like it could have been spoken yesterday and not 60 years ago is:

“The conservatives who say, “Let us not move so fast,” and the extremists who say, “Let us go out and whip the world ,” would tell you that they are as far apart as the poles. But there is a striking parallel: They accomplish nothing; for they do not reach the people who have a crying need to be free.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Who inspires you?

This is a hard one because the list is so long. For the sake of answering the question, I find myself following several women who are professional overlanders on Instagram. Overlanding is outfitting a vehicle (usually one made for off-roading, but not always – I’ve seen people do it with vans and motorcycles) with camping/survival equipment and adventuring in some of the best nature the world has to offer. I find the idea of living semi-off grid and adventuring the world as a profession freeing.

The idea that you can be anything in this world, even a chick who backpacks and drives around remote locations, is liberating and I commend those women for living their dreams. Also, their photos are SO COOL. 

What’s a fun fact about you people may not know?

I do most things in life purely for the adventure of the pursuit (which is how I found myself pursuing a Ph.D. at CSU). Also, my favorite ice cream is Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy. Those are two fun facts even though you only asked for one!