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Student Spotlight: Gregory Heon

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Portrait of Gregory Heon

May 20, 2018

Meet Gregory Heon (PhD '18), MS&E graduating PhD student.

Greg will be working as Head of Special Projects at a cybersecurity startup, Qadium.

"I love the mix of mathematical theory and computer science that is all focused on real-world applications. Stanford MS&E allowed me to apply them to real problems."

Why did you choose Stanford MS&E?

I've always been drawn to elegant mathematical solutions, and Stanford MS&E allowed me to apply them to real problems. The interdisciplinary nature of the department enabled me to search broadly for solution concepts from a diverse set of disciplines rather than starting with a standard solution and making small iterative changes to it. I love the mix of mathematical theory and computer science that is all focused on real-world applications.

How did you become interested in your research area?

My research explores how time should be used strategically in real-life games. I use the same general model to understand how the clock can be used to one's advantage in basketball games, how investment banks can improve their intern recruiting with timing-based incentives, and how the United States could have made better timing decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis despite the uncertainty surrounding what the Soviet Union knew, wanted, and had.

My general model considers both the effects of time passing as players are strategically patient and how players can incentivize their opponents to act faster or slower in such a way that benefits the original player. I fell in love with the constant mix of abstract, game-theoretic math and the case-specific framing that allowed my general model to work with such a diverse set of topics.

What are your career plans and how did you decide on them?

Following graduation, I will be working full-time at a cybersecurity startup called Qadium. The company collects a number of internet-focused global datasets and analyzes them to provide contextual, relevant information to its corporate and government customers. I will be starting as Head of Special Projects, where I will focus my efforts on "moonshot" R&D projects.

What advice do you have for students?

Stay curious and go past the minimum requirements. The classes at Stanford are fantastic, but it can be tempting to spend your time aiming for good grades rather than exploring beyond the curriculum in areas you find the most interesting. I'd recommend diving down the rabbit hole and exploring whenever you have time. Go talk to professors about your ideas; become an expert in something.

What other activities are you involved with on and off campus?

I spent 5 years playing ultimate frisbee on Stanford's club sports team and spent two years as the President of Stanford Club Sports. I also was involved with Stanford's engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi, and taught French cooking for a quarter.

What would you tell your freshman self?

It's tempting to focus narrowly from the start, but I'd recommend a breadth-first search for your passion when you first arrive. I didn't find anything close to my PhD research until my sophomore year, and I'm very happy I was patient enough early on to find it. I'd also recommend leaving enough free time on your calendar for unplanned spontaneity. There are amazing opportunities, so I always found it tempting to book as much of my calendar as possible, but many of my favorite memories at Stanford came during unscheduled time when I said yes to something unplanned.

Student stories & voices