PyDev of the Week: Stefan van der Walt | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Stefan van der Walt | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Stefan van der Walt (@stefanvdwalt) as our PyDev of the Week! Stefan is the creator of scikit-image, which is a collection of algorithms for image processing. You can see some of the projects that he is a part of on Github or on Berkeley’s website. Stefan also has his own website which is worth checking out. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Stefan better!


Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):


I am currently a researcher at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) at the University of California, Berkeley. I was born and raised in the university town of Stellenbosch, South Africa—renowned for its beautiful nature and world-class wines—where I studied electronic engineering, computer science, and applied mathematics. Growing up there, it was easy to fall in love with nature: I love running and hiking in the mountains, and exploring in general. Nowadays, most of my hobby time is spent with my two children, aged 1 and 3.


Why did you start using Python?


I’ve always been drawn to new languages, and enjoy tinkering with them to see what constructs they provide, and how you they allow you to express familiar problems in novel ways. So, while I dabbled with Python in high school (for little projects like organizing my music collection), it was really during a summer internship that I learned it inside out. They gave me two weeks to learn Python, after which I had to solve some database-related problems. Those first two weeks were great! Later at university, I did most of my work in Octave, but switched when my advisor got inspired by Python. Those were early days in the scientific Python ecosystem, but I was just too happy that I could use and develop open source software as part of my work.


What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?


I feel like “knowing” a language means having developed intuition around it, instinctively knowing how to best express yourself. I spent several years learning C++, but never truly felt comfortable with it. There’s this great book by Scott Meyers where he shows code snippets, and asks you to figure out what’s wrong with them. You often can’t see it, but when he shows you it turns out to be some BIG issue. This had me worried: do I really want to spend so much time learning a language that easily hides catastrophically bad behavior? In that regard, I think C++ has improved a lot since, so that nowadays it is easier to program safely—but I haven’t gone back.


Day-to-day, I use JavaScript—to build scientific web portals for machine learning and astronomy—and elisp, because I practically live inside of emacs and org-mode. It’s hard to pick favorites: each serves a purpose, and has its own beauty and warts.


There are a lot of others I wish to explore still: Haskell—to understand its type system, Rust—to see what a modern system language looks like, and C# and .NET—to see why users are so excited about their library support and documentation.


Thanks for doing the interview, Stefan!


The post PyDev of the Week: Stefan van der Walt appeared first on The Mouse Vs. The Python.

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