Chris Painter came to Penn excited about the variety of opportunities available to him. His varied interests are reflected in the three degrees he will receive this coming May: a master’s in Robotics, which he is completing alongside his undergraduate dual-degree in the Fisher Program in Management and Technology. He will be finishing the Public Policy Research Scholars certificate as well. Chris explains that this breadth of options, and the support he has consistently received in pursuing them, is the thing he appreciates most about Penn: “I’ve seen so many different sides of Penn, from its politics-oriented community through the Government and Politics Association, its startup scene fueled by organizations like Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship and PennApps, to its medical research community by doing research at the Center for Neuroengineering and Therapeutics and shadowing doctors at Penn Medicine. Whenever I’ve taken my life in a new direction, pursuing a new interest, Penn has presented me with a constellation of opportunities and resources to cultivate that interest. I think this is an experience that Penn is uniquely suited to provide.”
Chris’s academic interests in policy, technology and business reflect his desire to understand how society reacts to the introduction of new technologies, and how those technologies can be used for better or for worse. Though some would see this as motivation to become involved in the regulation of technology, Chris wants to take a different tack, and remain involved on the technical side. “The nature of work is going to change dramatically with automation, and the challenges that this will pose for policymakers seem to be tremendous,” Chris observes. “One of the best ways to have a voice in how society manages those changes is to work on the teams inventing these tools, so as to help make sure they’re implemented in a way that benefits all of society.”
To that end, Chris has been building his resume, developing his coding skills while exploring a new city last summer as an intern with Appstrax Technology in Cape Town, South Africa. Chris enjoys the instant feedback loop that comes with coding. “It’s extremely satisfying to build and immediately see the performance of what you’ve constructed, and it helps that there’s an enormous universe of sub-skills and concepts within computer science to learn about and train.” However, Chris also enjoys pursuing longer-term, bigger projects, like his work for the Center for Effective Altruism, a nonprofit for which he helps organize events and conferences. The center works to use “evidence and concepts from economics to figure out how to do the most good in the world.”
Chris is unsure where exactly his studies and interests will lead, career wise, but he’s certain he wants to “bring his education to bear on questions of how to improve society.” He is doing so already, with his project with the Center for Neuroengineering and Therapeutics, where is helping to build a device that will help people with drug non-responsive epilepsy get better care with fewer doctor’s visits. Chris is the prototypical engineer in that he is always searching for innovative ways to solve problems, and sees public policy as one more arena in which he can use those skills.