Tom Shafer

My family

Hi, I’m Tom. 👨🏻‍💻👨🏻‍🔬😊

I’m a programmer, musician, and physicist working as a Lead Data Scientist and Research Scientist for Elder Research in Raleigh, NC. Before I began in data science, I completed a Ph.D. in physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill modeling the structure of heavy nuclei with high-performance computing.

My wife and I are members of the The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC.


Data Science & Machine Learning

I loved the freedom graduate school gave me to switch between pencil-and-paper theory and heads-down software development, and data science has so far offered a similar blend of theory and practice, largely thanks to my employer. Along the way I’ve been able to build anti-fraud systems, study how contagions spread across networks, develop GPU-powered object-detection models, lead data science training development and instruction, and lots of other interesting stuff.

I also enjoy programming, writing, and trying out new techniques. I’ve put together a small collection of (mostly) side projects and writings related to data science or programming.

(Read more about my data science work.)

Physics Research

My physics research focused on radioactive properties of the very heaviest atomic nuclei, nuclei so heavy that they don’t naturally exist on earth. It so happens that these nuclei’s decay half-lives are an important puzzle piece in the search for where all the elements heavier than iron come from.

To calculate these half-lives, our group developed software that significantly reduced the computational cost of these calculations (Phys. Rev. C, preprint) and then computed the properties of thousands of nuclei (Phys. Rev. C, preprint). I then extended the method to compute half-lives for nuclei with odd numbers of protons and/or neutrons, a challenging problem (Phys. Rev. C, preprint).

This research got even more exciting with LIGO’s 2017 detection of a neutron star merger, a process hypothesized to form these heavy elements, and follow-up observations that are trying to determine whether this merger event produced the nuclei we are searching for.

(Read more about my physics research. Or see Google Scholar.)


I’ve played guitars for a few decades now, and I’ve been fortunate to work with lots of folks including The Summit Church, Port City Community Church, Lee Hester, and others. These days, I’m actively involved with The Summit Church and Summit Worship in Raleigh, NC.

(Read more about my music.)