Nick Kwiecien

Data Scientist, 3M

hailing from

Born and raised outside of St. Paul, Minnesota

  • B.A. – Vanderbilt University – Nashville, TN (2012)
  • Ph.D. – University of Wisconsin – Madison, WI (2016)

What did you accomplish as a graduate student and, later, as a research specialist in the Coon Group?

After completing my degree and transitioning into a role as senior informatics development specialist, I could continue working on a number of projects that I was working on as a graduate student. The goal of our biggest ongoing project is to build generic, flexible, highly interactive web-based tools that will allow us to disseminate and explore data with our collaborators quickly and to support and integrate all kinds of data collected in the lab for the different types of applications the Coon group is involved in—proteomics, metabolomics, and lipidomics. We ultimately hope to make everything that we’re building, once it’s mature and developed and stable enough, more broadly available to the larger scientific community. Ideally, even people who don’t have programming expertise will be able to do really powerful computational tasks without writing any code on their own, and in a fun and intuitive way. In that spirit, I also mentored some of the newer students in the lab who might not have high computational expertise and teach them some basic coding practices and different ways that they can more directly interrogate their data and make meaningful comparisons.

“I’m excited to go work with a group of people who think about a different set of problems all day every day.”

What brings you to 3M?

I am originally from the Twin Cities area, so I am happy to head back closer to family and friends. Both of my parents worked for 3M for many years—I always had a very favorable view of the company, from its work environment to its extremely extensive product base. Thanks to the work I did at the Coon lab (as well as the strength of Josh’s name), my resume came across the desk of a manager who thought I’d be a good fit for a new project 3M is undertaking. Looking at data analysis as a key future area for improving the product development that they’re known for, 3M was searching for a combination that’s not necessarily easy to find: someone who has extensive computer programming knowledge and can understand complex technical scientific problems.

I’ll be developing web-based tools for data processing, dissemination, visualization, and exploration. The project could grow to be quite immense and take on new functionality and features, but the goal now is to centralize data from various production lines in one location, which will help us better compare current data to historical data, rapidly identify problems, streamline troubleshooting processes, and increase production uptimes. In some ways this work is going to be vastly different than what I’ve been doing at the Coon group, where there was a heavy biotech focus. Now I’ll be moving towards material analysis. I’m excited to go work with a group of people who think about a different set of problems all day every day. But I think fundamentally some of the same principles are going to be maintained: collecting large data sets, trying to find striking correlations between disparate data sets, identifying new connections, and more rapidly identifying and quantifying certain phenomena. I’m tremendously excited for the next stage and at the same time tremendously appreciative for all the opportunities I had in the Coon lab to do good science with a wonderfully talented group of people.

Earn your Ph.D. with us

The Coon Group is always on the lookout for new members.  Professor Coon accepts students from several UW-Madison doctoral programs including Chemistry, the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB), and Cellular & Molecular Pathology.