Katherine Luna ’01 visits HW Venture

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Katherine Luna ‘01, a Senior Machine Learning Engineer at Apple, spoke to the HW Venture Club about her life experiences at break on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Luna spoke about her experience at HW, her time abroad, her PhD years and her career choice.

While at HW, some of Luna’s hobbies included painting, varsity cross country and the JV soccer team. “There are four main areas that come to mind in which Harvard-Westlake prepared me for the real world, and this comes from my experiences in school, sports, art and social circumstances,” Luna said.

Luna feels that HW empowered her to branch out and attend many schools as well as engage in different occupational fields. “I’ve been a student at Harvard, Stanford, and Leiden in the Netherlands. Even among those prestigious universities, Harvard-Westlake was the best school that I’ve ever attended for its quality of education, excellence in sports, and quality of students,” Luna said.

Luna wanted to be an investment banker when she was in high school because she enjoyed the movie “Pretty Woman.”

“At Harvard-Westlake, I thought that I would be an investment banker, and I would be doing that for my entire life. For career fair, I even wanted to shadow an investment banker. When I went to college, a fellow Harvard-Westlake parent gave me some good advice to study what I found interesting, as this would likely lead to a career that I enjoyed,” Luna said.

Luna attended Harvard University for a year and then transferred to Stanford because of their superior engineering program. She first majored in electrical engineering and then switched to physics and math, while minoring in Latin American studies. She received a Fulbright Scholarship to study physics at Leiden in the Netherlands, and became their resident artist. Her oil paintings are featured on their website.

Luna received a doctoral degree in physics at Stanford and then began to study experimental physics. She worked hard and got her masters at Stanford in financial mathematics as well. She had a tough career decision after obtaining her PhD. She was forced to decide between pursuing her love of physics at a company called JPL or her love for data science at a startup called Guardian Analytics.

“I’ve gotten more used to the idea of change over the years and it’s exciting to always be learning something new. I don’t think there is ever a right decision for a career path, but it’s more about just making a decision, moving forward and being willing to change as you grow,” Luna said.

Luna decided to choose Guardian Analytics, and worked as a data scientist. Her decision was risky because the company was a start-up and could possibly have been unsuccessful. She worked on fraud detection for the company in the field of online banking. Luna really enjoyed the environment at the company.

A few years after she joined Guardian Analytics, Luna moved to Apple, where she currently works. She works on Query suggestions, helping with Spotlight Search, Safari and user input/suggestions.

“Apple is training everyone there about machine learning and [Katherine] offered to tell students a little bit about what she does as a machine learning engineer,” said programming teacher Jessica Kaufman, who organized this event.

Kaufman also said that there will be more speakers coming soon. Announcements regarding events will be in the bulletin.

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