Kai Staats


I am an entrepreneur, writer, film maker and now, a student once more.
In 1999 I co-founded and for ten years was CEO of Terra Soft Solutions, developer of Yellow Dog Linux. My company’s systems were used to process images from the Mars rovers at NASA JPL; to conduct real-time sonar imaging on-board the U.S. Navy submarines; to train both military and commercial pilots for Boeing, and conduct bioinformatics research at DoE labs. It was an amazing learning experience, and incredibly challenging. In 2008 I sold the company to an industry leading, Japanese firm.

Now working as a professional filmmaker, I have returned to my passion for science as a storyteller, capturing the curiosity, passion, and drive of those who work a lifetime to better understand the inner workings of the universe around them.

In the past calendar year I have complete a film for Caltech and another for the National Science Foundation, both about the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). More at www.facebook.com/ligofilm

What inspired you to study science, and astrophysics?

When I was in high school I fell victim to a voice in my head which said, “I am not good at mathematics,” when in fact the voice should have said, “I need to learn a different way, hands-on, applied.”

My return to academia after a two decades break is to not only demonstrate to myself that I can enjoy applied mathematics, but to expand my foundation in the sciences in order that I will be better equipped to produce effective science outreach films.

Overall, I maintain an insatiable, child-like desire to know how it all works. Being here, in the AIMS Cosmology Research Group under Professor Bassett has fuelled that desire even more.

Do you have a role model in science?

Carl Berglund, a former engineer at NASA JPL, my high school physics professor Dan Heim, and life-long mentor and friend Ron Spomer, a renowned wildlife conservationist, writer, and photographer.

A quote that inspires you?

“It takes a village to raise a child,” because it reinforces the reality that no amount of social networking, no advanced gadget or supercomputer will ever replace our intrinsic need for human parents, peers, mentors, and associates. As our population grows (out of control), it will be this fundamental parameter of healthy child rearing that will give our species the best chance for long-term survival, both here on Earth and as we head to the stars.

Research interests

In July of 2014 I switched research topics to join a small team which is applying machine learning algorithms to the automated isolation of radio frequency interference (RFI) in radio astronomy data at SKA.

The first six months of our work (bringing 2014 to a close) brought us into a stronger understanding of the data while granting hands-on experience with machine learning.

My research will now move into genetic programming, developing code which simulates the random mutation of biological organisms in order to find a potential solution to a given problem.

This is wonderfully engaging, and equally challenging.


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