by Thras Karydis, DeepCure
Little longer than a year ago, I was sitting at my desk at the MIT Media Lab, reflecting on whether I had taken the right decision. Earlier that day, I had officially stopped my PhD at halftime, to join my lab mate and adviser in founding DeepCure – an AI startup company in the field of drug discovery. I remember feeling scared and excited thinking about all the challenges that lie in the future.
Well, it turns out that the first challenge came much sooner than I was expecting. Due to IP issues, I had to drop my student status immediately and there was not enough time to apply directly for an O1 or a Green Card. After a couple of stressful weeks and numerous conversations with immigration lawyers, I had no clear path forward. Everything was in place to start the company apart from my VISA. It felt like driving full speed to a dead end.
Thankfully, these troubles are a thing of the past since I joined the Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GEIR) program at the Venture Development Center (VDC), UMass Boston, in the November of 2018. Apart from providing a direct solution to my immigration conundrum, the GEIR program has been one of the most rewarding experiences for a startup founder. The VDC houses a driven, innovative community and is the gateway to a well-connected entrepreneurial tech and biotech network.
A very fulfilling component of being a GEIR is the opportunity to work with UMass Boston students. In the Spring 2019 semester, I helped to teach the “Introduction to Software Engineering” (CS410) class, led by professor Marc Pomplun in the Computer Science department. Right from the start, I was very excited because as part of the course, I could lead one or more student groups in developing real-life software projects. DeepCure would be the client with a software engineering need, and the students would form teams to work towards a solution.
While I had initially doubted that this effort would be worthwhile for DeepCure, I was pleased to be proven wrong. The students in both teams I worked with have been exceptional, contributing enough time from their schedule to get substantial work done and bring the projects to completion. The implemented pieces of software were not part of our critical technology road map but undoubtedly saved us time and effort in developing our main product.
I am confident that DeepCure’s engagement with the class also greatly benefited the students. Being part of a team, they learned to communicate effectively with peers, distribute tasks effectively, and resolve conflicts constructively when having opposing ideas. Moreover, they picked up fundamental software development skills, such as version control, writing documentation, issue tracking, and other modern development practices (e.g., SCRUM). Overall, their participation in the projects showed them a glimpse of an agile startup work environment and inspired them for their future career goals.
Based on my experience, I can say UMass Boston students are qualified, passionate, and hard-working to take on careers in the computer science field. I look forward to working again with UMass Boston students in the Fall semester and helping them grow professionally and navigate Boston’s tech innovation eco-system.
Thras Karydis is currently working to change the way we discover small-molecule drugs at DeepCure. He got his MSc from the Molecular Machines group at MIT Media Lab and the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms. His research interests revolve around the application of Deep Learning and AI in protein evolution, folding, and design. In the past few years, Thras has worked on rapid-prototyping hardware for biology in FabLabs, ultra-fast laser micromachining, Self-Calibrating protocols for wearable EEG sensors, bioinformatics to crack the olfactory code and quantum cryptography. His expertise is in Deep learning, Artificial Intelligence, Pharmaceuticals, Molecular Biophysics, 2D & 3D Fabrication, Electronics Design and Fabrication, Rapid Prototyping, and Quantum Computing. His general office hours at the VDC are once a week, and days vary depending on the week and schedule. Please email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a meeting.