About Me

I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA, where I spent my formative years enjoying the ocean, the mountains, and the perpetually perfect weather.

After graduating from Dos Pueblos High School, I proceeded to major in Physics at U.C. Berkeley, where I was introduced to the wonders of astrophysics, and to my brilliant wife, Shabnam Javdani.

Next, we moved to Urbana, IL, where I earned my Ph.D. in physics at UIUC, working with Stuart Shapiro on fully relativistic computer simulations accreting, merging binary black holes.

I am currently a theoretical astrophysicist, working as a postdoctoral researcher with Zoltan Haiman in the astronomy department at Columbia University and Andrew MacFadyen at the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics at New York University. My research focuses on electromagnetic signatures of accreting supermassive binary black holes.

In the past several years, I have been amazed to see how quickly things are changing in both astrophysics and industry as a result of the techniques of data science seeing increased use. I find this to be extremely exciting and I am looking forward to transitioning further into this domain in the near future.

I can best be contacted at the following email address:



Binary Black Holes

Selected Publications

CV: pdf available here.

Data Science

Living in New York City, I am fortunate to be surrounded by an extremely vibrant data science community, which I found myself getting drawn into when I moved here in 2012. In addition to seeing the growing influence of Big Data techniques in the astrophysics departments at Columbia and NYU, I was able to take advantage of the community of data scientists outside academia in the city by attending meetups. I decided in 2015 to leave astrophysics and I was accepted as a fellow at the Data Incubator. Following the fellowship, I had the opportunity to join Capital One Labs, where I have been working since.

In addition to practicing Data Science and Machine Learning, I also enjoy the challenge of communicating these topics. Below are two talks that I recently gave on Reinforcement Learning, a topic which I have been particularly fascinated by lately.

A talk on "Reinforcement Learning and Multi-Armed Bandits" which I gave for the "Data Science in 30 Minutes" series at the Data Incubator.

A talk on Reinforcement Learning for Data Scientists that I gave at DataEngConf.

Here is a link to the portfolio project that I completed as a part of the Data Incubator Fellowship

Mining Social Media Data for Insights into Viewer Attention and Engagement During Large-Scale Media Events

I have used the Twitter Streaming API to download 1.5 million tweets containing the word "superbowl" during the 2015 game. I then played around with the data a bit to see what I could find.

Web Apps

As a hobby, I have been teaching myself how to write Python web apps using the Flask web framework, and Twitter Bootstrap, and deploying them on Heroku. Here are a couple of examples:

FLOG: brian Farris's LOGging app.

A nice app for keeping lists, journals, and logging activities. It uses Google+ Sign-in for authentication. Eventually, I would like to add analysis to monitor progress, etc. For now the only thing it does is make goofy word clouds from text entries.

FEATHER: brian Farris's wEATHER app.

A very simple weather app that automatically figures out where you are and gives you the current conditions and the hourly conditions for the next week. It uses the Weather Underground API.



One of my hobbies is photography. I currently use an Olympus OM-D E-M5, usually with either an Olympus 45mm f1.8, or a Panasonic 25mm f1.4 lens. Here are a few pics I have taken around NYC:

View of Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan.

Cherry blossoms in Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

Chinese New Year parade.

Washington Square Park in the winter.

A deserted SoHo, one day after Hurricane Sandy.

The courtyard in Washington Square Village, our apartment complex.

The pristine Hudson river.

One of NYC's colorful residents taking his dog for a walk.


While I theoretically enjoy playing guitar as a hobby, that doesn't actually happen very often. I generally find that I prefer to spend time tinkering with music-related equiptment.

I have pieced together my own "partscaster" using parts from all over the internet.

I wired my own guitar amplifier from a kit. Thanks to my dad for building the wooden enclosure.

I built a few effects pedals from kits.

I also built my own Theremin from a kit. I have no idea how to play music with it but it sounds pretty cool.


Like most geeks, I went through a beer brewing phase a few years ago. It was fun, but I quickly realized that I was too lazy to keep it up, so I now stick to brewing apfelwein. It tastes delicious, and it can be made with even less effort than going to the store to buy alcohol. Here is a picture of my latest batch:


Living in the city, I don't get out into nature as often as I would like. However, we do the best we can. Here are some pics from various adventures over the years:

Near Big Sur

Chickenfoot Lake

Death Valley

Elephant seals in Cambria

Geese at Crystal Lake Park in Urbana

Hiking near New Paltz, NY

Moose in Rocky Mountain National Park

Oregon Coast

Bryce Canyon National Park

Vernal Falls in Yosemite

Backpacking in Yosemite

Zion National Park

Running/Cycling along the Hudson

We are lucky to live relatively close to the Hudson river, where I like to either bike or run along the Huson River Park.

View of downtown from pier 34

Bike path along Riverside Park