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 started working 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 using high-performance computing.

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


Data Science & Machine Learning

One of my favorite things about graduate school was the freedom I was given to balance theoretical, literally pencil-and-paper work with heads-down software development. By grace and through the encouragement of my employers, data science consulting has provided a similar mix of theory and practice. Over the past few years, I’ve been able to work on anti-fraud systems, the application of mean field theory to networks, GPU-powered object-detection models, data science training development and instruction, and much more.

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

(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 at this points and have been fortunate to work with 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 musical work.)