November 10, 2020

Alumna Tai-Danae Bradley explains how her time at the Graduate Center prepared her for a new role at X - The Moonshot Factory, where she's exploring the frontiers of physics and artificial intelligence.

Tai-Danae Bradley
Tai-Danae Bradley

As the creator of Math3maTai-Danae Bradley (Ph.D. ’20, Mathematics) entertained and educated graduate-level students and math enthusiasts with her explanations of such concepts as singular value decomposition and language modeling with reduced densities. Now she’s continuing her work, which draws on quantum physics, machine intelligence, and category theory, as a postdoc at X - The Moonshot Factory, formerly known as Google X. 

The goal of X is to “create radical new technologies to solve some of the world’s hardest problems,” such as protecting ocean ecosystems while reducing the global food crisis. Bradley, who works alongside inventors and entrepreneurs, recently spoke to The Graduate Center about her new role:  

The Graduate Center: What kinds of projects are you working on as a postdoc at X?

Bradley: Throughout the past year or so, a team at X has released a series of papers that use established tools from quantum physics to tackle problems in machine learning. This series is part of a larger effort to explore the frontiers of physics and artificial intelligence, while working hand-in-hand with other teams across X and Alphabet. Incidentally, my Ph.D. work involved a lot of the same ideas from a mathematical perspective, and so part of my role as a postdoc at X is to explore the same line of research I worked on while at CUNY.

GC: Did The Graduate Center help prepare you for this role in other ways? 

Bradley: I really enjoyed my time at The Graduate Center. The math department has a very welcoming environment, and the students and faculty were all extremely friendly. My thesis adviser, Professor John Terilla (GC/Queens, Mathematics), played an especially important role in both why I enjoyed the grad school experience and why I’m at X. He introduced me to the area of research I work in, encouraged me every step of the way, and deserves a lot of the credit for where I am today.

GC: What advice do you have for math Ph.D. students who might want to follow a similar path?

Bradley: My career path so far has been a bit interdisciplinary — both at the GC and now at X, where my team has a number of experts from various fields: physics, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, mathematics, and more. In such cross-disciplinary environments, I think communicating well is very important. That is, in addition to being knowledgeable about one’s own work, it’s also helpful to be aware of others’ backgrounds and interests. Learning how to identify possible connections in a way that makes others say “aha!” is a skill that, I think, goes a long way in building bridges across disciplines that may otherwise go unnoticed.