Simon Broda

Programming with Julia

Julia is keeping scientist Simon Broda very busy. She’s the reason he’s browsing through masses of documents, communicating with people all over the world, and spending hours pounding away at his keyboard. Broda wants to teach Julia econometrics – statistical methods for studying economic data. Julia is a new programming language developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Ideally suited to scientific calculations, the idea is for her to conquer the universities as quickly as possible.

In addition to enabling lightning-quick calculations, Julia, unlike the commercial language Matlab widely used in academic circles, is available with an open-source license. Under the terms of the license, the programming structure or source code underlying a software application must be open to inspection and modification, which enables Simon Broda and other inventive programmers to constantly expand Julia with new tools. This is crucially important: “For the research community to choose Julia, the language must provide certain functions and tools,” explains Broda. At UZH he’s tinkering with a code, for example, that should enable Julia to assess the risks of investments. His project is funded by a grant from the EU, and is part of an open science initiative designed to make it easier for people to access science and its methods.

Broda grew up near Kiel, where he studied business administration. He subsequently did a PhD in econometrics at the University of Zurich. After a year and a half as a postdoc in Zurich, he held an assistant professorship in econometrics at the University of Amsterdam.
In March 2018 Broda returned to UZH, where he’s more or less back in his old postdoc job. “A touch of home-sickness is what brought me back,” he says. What he enjoys in Zurich is the good technical infrastructure and helpful co-workers, plus the opportunity to attend lectures on various topics at two first-rate universities. He’ll continue to benefit from all this until the end of his stay in 2020, when he’ll return to his post as an assistant professor in Amsterdam.