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BTW w/ Dr. Nick Arcolano: Data and Behavioral Scientist

Nicholas Arcolano does some cool stuff here at TrueMotion. A Senior Data Scientist, he is in the thick of all things data analysis and product development. Example one: he leads a TrueMotion data science pod that is diving into what drivers are doing behind the wheel in the immediate lead-up to an accident–and how those activities might be connected with the crash. Example two: he was a key part of the team that conducted our recent behavior modification study, finding that it is possible to reduce distracted driving behaviors with a gentle virtual nudge.

We could of course go on with many more examples, but you get the jist: he is the guy that takes data and makes it useful. In his words, his work is at the intersection of product, user experience, data science and communication.

How does one get to be so multi-talented?
Nick certainly has a pretty interesting background. He spent 10 years as a researcher at MIT, during which time he completed his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at Harvard. His research focused on numerical methods for the analysis of massive data sets–which complemented his work at MIT in cyber security and ballistic missile defense nicely. He subsequently made his entrance into the startup world at a company called Runkeeper, where he helped create mobile and web apps for health and fitness tracking and guidance.

Yet while he very much enjoyed his work for both MIT and Runkeeper, his ideal position would be somewhere in between the two: his research work posed fascinating technical conundrums, but he felt unconnected to the impact of his work. His efforts with Runkeeper, conversely, had a very tangible impact, but were not as technically stimulating.

Enter TrueMotion.

As Nick describes it, TrueMotion was the perfect coalescence of the two: it marries the very complex technical challenges with the meaningful impact of making the roads safer.

Two years later, Nick still loves the work that he is doing at TrueMotion–he would be hard-pressed to select a favorite project of all of the ones that he has completed. According to Nick, the true highlight of working here is the team. He is routinely blown away by all of the innovation going on around him.

Yet despite all of his work analyzing the nuances of driving data, Nick only rarely finds himself driving a car. His wife happily takes on all driving duties, arguing that he is too calm and conservative as a driver. His conservative habits could potentially be traced to his experiences in the back seat as a kid: Nick describes his mother as an impressive multi-tasker before multi-tasking was cool, doing everything from balancing the checkbook to putting on make-up while behind the wheel.

But Nick still has his fair share of great driving/road trip stories. His first car, for example, was a 1986 Chevy Celebrity that was heatless after he discovered that the radiator core was relying solely on rust to stay in place–and yet it still somehow survived multiple Upstate New York winters.

He also has plenty of on-topic song suggestions for road trips (many of which likely pop up during his annual family pilgrimage to Acadia National Park in Maine): Kickstart my Heart by Mötley Crüe; Highway Star by Deep Purple; Runnin’ Down a Dream by Tom Petty.

As you could probably guess from Nick’s below bucket list item, Nick loves to run in his free time. Fun fact: he has run at least a mile a day for the past 2.5 years. And he has his 7th marathon coming up this month. The rest of his time is spent wrangling his kids, but he does find some time every once in a while to fit in a video game or two. Nick and his wife are also notable foodies and long-time Boston-ites, and are thus full of good recommendations for the local food scene. One of his favorites is Park in Cambridge. He describes the experience as psychotherapy-esque.

Nick truly epitomizes what we are trying to do at TrueMotion in bridging the worlds of data and real-world impact. We are excited to see what he comes up with next!

What is the one food item you cannot resist?


What is at the top of your bucket list?

Big Sur Marathon

iOS or android?


What is most likely to happen in your lifetime: flying cars, teleportation or floo powder?

Teleportation. The virtual version where you trick your brain into thinking that you are somewhere else.

Categories: BTW