Matt's Avatar Picture
Matt's Avatar Picture
Matt's Avatar Picture

Matthew J Niznik, PhD

I am...

  • human (after all) [1][2]
  • an artist
  • a game creator
  • a number cruncher/muncher

(Thanks to sovanarts for this awesome pixel avatar!)

About Me


A while back, I was watching Avengers: Endgame and I heard a quote that really stuck with me: "Everyone fails at who they're supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are." I found a lot of truth in that statement and I think it reveals a lot about where I am in life.

Instead of focusing on who I was supposed to be, let's talk about who I am. I grew up loving math puzzles and video games and I thrive in work environments that present similar challenges. In the past decade, that has included scientific data analysis, building user-friendly websites, writing tricky automated tests, and communicating clearly. However, I get my greatest feelings of fulfillment from my marriage and parenting a moody cat.

In addition to video games and music, I've developed a board gaming hobby (more on those below). I enjoy reading all sorts of books and expect I'll never get through my "to read" list - probably better than running out of books though. I enjoy watching sports, in particular racing, football, hockey, and baseball. I like to play golf, but I prefer small, inexpensive courses where I can just relax and have fun with friends. Minigolf is good too.

I'm sure I could ramble on for much longer, but I think this is a good starting point. Check out the rest of my website and feel free to get in touch if you want to learn more.

Fun Facts


  • The following games/series have had a strong influence on me:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (3&K, Adventure 2)
    • F-Zero (X/GX)
    • Skies of Arcadia
    • Mass Effect (...not Andromeda)
    • Jet Set/Grind Radio
    • Earthbound/Mother
    • Chrono Trigger
    • Elder Scrolls (III/IV/V)
  • My wife and I love board and card games; some of my favorites are:
    • Wingspan
    • Viticulture
    • Ticket to Ride (particularly US, Pennsylvania, and Japan)
    • Carcassonne
    • Everdell
    • Azul
    • Love Letter
    • Quirkle
  • Instruments I Play:
    • Piano
    • Cello
    • Guitar (Electric)
    • Ocarina
    • Ukulele
    • Mandolin
  • I have owned the following game consoles (* = current):
    • SEGA
      • Game Gear
      • Genesis
      • Dreamcast (RIP)
    • Nintendo
      • GameBoy Pocket
      • Nintendo 64
      • GameBoy Advance
      • GameCube
      • Super Nintendo (Used)
      • Nintendo DS
      • Wii
      • Nintendo 3DS*
      • Wii U
      • Switch*
    • Microsoft
      • Xbox
      • Xbox 360
      • Xbox One*

FAQ


1) Wait, you have a PhD? Why are you doing web development?

Why not? Yes, I have a PhD, but I've discovered I have a talent for web development and enjoy the creativity involved. And it definitely helps to work at an institute researching the atmosphere!

2) Don't you want to be a professor?

I did previously. But a lot of people I've talked to are unaware that a PhD doesn't guarantee you a job as a professor (especially in recent decades). Here's a simple example that might illuminate why:

Let's say a professor mentors about 10 new PhD students (in 30-ish years) before retiring. Even if the number of academic positions doubled or so with each generation, 80% of those PhD graduates have to find something else to do. The other 20% have to really want it and I admire the commitment and sacrifice they make. But that life turned out not to be for me.

Some of it came down to personal choice. I wanted a career with less travel that would allow my family to choose where to settle down. Like many others, I'm also fortunate enough to have numerous interests.

This article from the New York Times explains the situation fairly well. I also like this one from The Economist.

3) Bitter much about #1 and #2?

Not at all - I just have strong feelings about academia and the stigma around leaving it. I know people who are too afraid to leave and pursue a new career primarily because they don't want to disappoint advisors, family, etc. That's not healthy for anyone.

Matthew J Niznik, PhD

Email: matt@[thisSite]

Skills


Languages: Python, JavaScript, R, PHP, Java

Data: SQL, SciPy, Matplotlib, Tableau, Statistics, Numerical Modeling, Technical Writing

Web: Django, Laravel, Symfony, MySQL, HTML5, CSS

Testing: Selenium, Laravel Dusk, Codeception, PHPUnit

Support: Git/GitHub, Jenkins, Bash

Education


Rutgers University (2010-2015)
Ph.D./M.S. in Atmospheric Science (3.94)
Dissertation

University of Miami (2006-2010)
B.S. in Computer Science and Meteorology/Math (3.99)

Employment


Research Associate II (Web Developer/Database Administrator)
Colorado State University
Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA)
(2020 - Present)

  • Maintain and implement new features for SLIDER - a web-based satellite visualization tool
  • Develop websites for CIRA's CloudSat Data Processing Center (DPC)
  • Participate in data processing and management activities as needed

(Web) Application Programmer
Stowers Resource Management, Inc.
(Supporting Stowers Institute for Medical Research)
(2017 - 2020)

  • Led development on a team upgrading Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) modules to modern ExtJS (JavaScript) & Symfony (PHP) tech stack
  • Designed module databases and wrote scripts to import data from legacy modules (ETL)
  • Built tools and methods to simplify automated testing using Selenium/Codeception and served as a mentor to junior developers

(Web) Application Developer
Rutgers University
Division of Continuing Studies
(2016 - 2017)

  • Designed, built, tested, and deployed Laravel (PHP) and Java web applications that managed and visualized student registration, division purchasing, and state census data
  • Managed application Linux servers and automated deployment process (Git/Jenkins)
  • Improved testing standards using PHPUnit and Laravel Dusk/Selenium

Post Doctoral Associate
University of Miami
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
(2015 - 2016)

  • Extracted and transformed terabytes of raw climate model output into a format facilitating easy loading and analysis
  • Calculated derived fields and performed statistical analyses of simulated extreme rainfall events using Python libraries (SciPy, Matplotlib)
  • Designed and built ClickHist, an open-source, modular data analysis tool

Game Creator

I enjoy making retro-style games. Many never leave the prototyping phase but I'm happy to share them anyway.

In terms of frameworks, I highly recommend Pyxel by Takashi Kitao. Making simple games just using the HTML5 Canvas and JavaScript is also quite good for learning. This tutorial from Mozilla was very helpful.

Pastel Stalactites

Try out the JavaScript [Source Code] prototype in your browser!
Now also available in Pyxel (shown below)!



You are a rectangular, colorful spelunker who can stretch and shrink on a whim! Pastel stalactites of varying heights will tease, taunt, and tempt you to remain as tall as you can for maximum points. Don't hit your head!


Tempt Your Fortune

Try out the JavaScript [Source Code] prototype in your browser!



A JavaScript prototype of a classic game - can you avoid the Whomper?