A walk through Oxford

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On Saturday I went with my sister and brother-in-law on a day trip to my alma mater.

Although graduation ceremonies and hoards of tourists made it hard to move around and access temporarily closed buildings, it was a sunny day, and we enjoyed the walk, including a tour of Somerville and Magdalen Colleges, the Ashmolean Museum, a rehearsal for a concert at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and the Bodleian Weston Library, where we saw the “Treasures: 24 pairs” exhibition and had a nice lunch.

Re-designing a NASA interface

interface

I am interested in many things. One of the main ones is technology. And within technology, software development to view telemetry data in different ways, within the same application.

Answering NASA’s call to help contribute to the exploration of the solar system, I got access to their next-generation mission control framework being developed at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley being used for mission planning and operations in the lead up to the Resource Prospector mission, and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to view data from the Curiosity Rover.

Although I do not have much “spare time”, I have been tinkering with composing and modifying screen layouts, bringing together various telemetry objects and other object types in a single screen, following some basic design principles, as outlined in a book I have read recently: Designing for Emerging Technologies – UX for Genomics, Robotics and the IoT, by Jonathan Follett (Editor) published by O’Reilly.

Still a “work in progress”, but I hope my contributions help.

Wimbledon tennis madness

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I live in Wimbledon. We moved here from London Bridge because this area is much more relaxed and has great parks within walking distance. But for two weeks a year, this town becomes the tennis capital of the world.

I can post this collection of photos showing how crazy the town gets for two weeks now that the Wimbledon Tennis Championships 2016 are over, and I can tell because I could hear the players moan, the umpire call the score… let alone the crowd roaring.

From our living room window, we have been enjoying tennis pros play. The practice courts are right in our front yard, so every time they missed (which does not happen often) a tennis ball would land on our door or parking space. We have a collection of 6 at home, decorating the fireplace mantel, plus 3 more that my parents took with them when they came to visit.

The two things that have amazed me the most is the squad of lawn caretakers, with their military precision and methodology, and the wheelchair players. Of course, what has annoyed me the most is the masses of fans completely taking over the sidewalks on their way in and out of The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to and from Southfields subway station.

I am glad we are back to peace and quiet.

A week of meetings in London

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After the trip to Boston I came down with the flu, of course on a weekend as usual. So Monday I had zero energy, but a week ahead with an usual large number of meetings around London, so I had to do “magic calendar tricks” to be able to make all of them and to also attend several events. The main “trick” is to concentrate meetings geographically, adding into the calendar the time it takes to go from point A to point B.

The meetings ranged from the Economic and Commercial Office of the Spanish Embassy in London to entrepreneurs seeking advice to potential investors and advisors.

On top of the meetings, I had a ton of conference calls and events. The only event I was invited to, I missed, and I really wanted to attend was the premiere of the documentary Design Disruptors.

The upside of hectic weeks like this is that I get to meet very interesting people (this week alone: an Oxford professor, a Baroness former Secretary of State for Health, two PhD entrepreneurs, a world-leading strategic investor advisor, the owner of a Chelsea art gallery, the head of a top law firm, CTOs of some of the largest technology companies in the world, etc), I get a lot of exercise done, and I get to enjoy the city.

Japan Society and Forbidden Planet London

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On Thursday , on my way from an event to a meeting, I made two stops. The first one in Forbidden Planet.

Forbidden Planet is a comic store that I enjoyed tremendously while living in New York. While not exactly Tokyo’s Mandarake, Forbidden Planet had enough variety to make it interesting. What I did not know is that they had such a large store in London! It is a fun place full of comic (and non-comic) books, manga, merchandise, figures, posters…

The second stop was at my “oasis” Japan Society, where I go to get delicious Japanese groceries (fresh organic tofu, excellent seafood, mochi, dorayaki, ramen, udon, seaweed, poki, sushi, calpis, etc) and freshly prepared takoyaki and buns.
^.^

Invited to the Amazon Web Services Summit

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On Wednesday and Thursday, I was invited to attend the Amazon Web Services Summit in London’s Excel center.

Besides an exhibition area with many vendors (some of them already suppliers to my company) like NewRelic, DataDog, GitHub, Chef, Alscient, Teradici, DataPipe, Ruxit, CloudCheckr, Amazon Activate, Elastic, Redis, etc, all with their great swag (mostly t-shirts and stickers, but lots of giveaways, from drones to iWatches), the highlight was the conference sessions.

I was interested in (and attended most of): DevOps, Game development, Security, Migration, Containers, Lumberyard, Encryption, Diversity, Microservices, BigData, and Enterprise systems.

They ranged from very boring to very interesting, from highly technical to highly comical. But the only one that was extremely sad is… you guessed it: the talk on Diversity. The one with less attendance and less engagement (see if you can spot which of the photos in the gallery belong to that session). How can that be, when lack of diversity is such an enormous problem in the tech world?

By the people attending and the talk itself it is very clear that the tech world is absolutely clueless about what the real problem is and how to address it.

My fear is that, beyond being quite a complex issue, there is no REAL interest in addressing it. After all, throughout history, high-value profit-generating activities have been the exclusive domain of the ruling elite. Which today mostly means White AngloSaxon Middle-Aged Men.

Never mind the shiny millennial poster boys in the cover of Entrepreneur magazines: they usually do not run the show or call the shots, they just speak the techno-lingo, but the money behind them, and the power center in “their” companies resides in… mostly White AngloSaxon Middle-Aged Men. Luckily there is a lot of activity coming from other countries and other ethnic groups. But the “gender gap” (or “glass-ceiling”) is still a seriously unresolved issue.

Talking to Prof. Church about machine learning applied to genomic research

During my flight to Boston I read “Regenesis”, the interesting genomic science book by Professor George Church, which was a gift from my friend Dr. Raminderpal Singh.

George, Raminder and Jorge 2016 Boston

On Wednesday evening I had a very interesting conversation in Boston with both of them. Neither of them needs an introduction in the genomics world, but for those of you outside the field:

  • Raminder is Vice-president at Eagle Genomics and Advisor at Kanteron Systems. He was previously Genomic Medicine Strategy Lead at IBM, where he was responsible for the Watson Genomics project.
  • George is a bestselling author, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT. His PhD led to the first genome sequence and contributed to nearly all “next generation” DNA sequencing methods.

Since George’s lab work revolves around chip-DNA-synthesis, gene editing, stem cell engineering, super-resolution, molecular computing, dark matter and similar subjects, and since he has PhD students from Harvard, MIT, Boston U., and Cambridge, during the conversation I could not resist the opportunity and I asked him about de novo computational discovery of motifs.

It is an idea I had a few weeks ago while sailing from Saint Petersburg to Helsinki: what if we apply machine learning/intelligence (whether Random Forests or Hierarchical Temporal Memory) algorithms, or even better quantum computing, to look for sequence motifs (nucleotide or amino-acid sequence pattern) to help us predict and engineer structural motifs (chain-like biological molecules)? We could begin with those related to binding and folding, which could lead to an exponential advance in the field of information storage and synthetic biology. But that would be only the beginning. The possibilities and implications could be really far fetching. It would overflow the SFLD 😉

In a nutshell (graphical silly example), it would make it much easier to go from this:
to this:

And not only describe it, but also understand it and facilitate its application in de-novo engineering.

There are already over 100 software programs which try to do this programmatically (MEME, EXTREME, AlignAce, Amadeus, CisModule, FIRE, Gibbs Motif Sampler, PhyloGibbs, SeSiMCMC, ChIPMunk, Weeder, SCOPE, MotifVoter, MProfiler…). Weirauch et al. evaluated many in a 2013 benchmark. But what I am proposing is a lot more powerful, versatile, and quick than anything done before (as far as I know).

He mentioned some of the research work his wife (Harvard Professor Ting Wu, whom I also met in Boston) is currently involved in around Super-resolution imaging for chromatin folding, and evolutionary conservation, and told me “your idea is really interesting”.

Honestly, I usually can care less about what others think of my ideas (I’m a scientist, I value evidence and data, not “beliefs” or “judgements”) but I personally admire and respect his work, and agree with his views, specially on sharing knowledge and human genome editing, so his comment made my day and encouraged me to further pursue that hypothesis… someday. Right now in my spare time I am redesigning a multi-sensors data stream interface for NASA (pro-bono, unrequested… but that’s my idea of fun!).

Two days in Boston

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I have spent the last two days in Boston for work. I know the city from my time as an MIT and Harvard student, and previous business trips. But unfortunately, the schedule was so tight, that this time I did not have a minute to enjoy Boston’s museums or other attractions. But that does not mean that I did not enjoy it.

I stayed at the great Park Plaza Hotel, where they gave me a VIP treatment thanks to my wonderful travel agent @Cruise_Curator

I liked the style and overall vibe of the hotel. But above all, I loved the breakfast buffet. Not a large selection, but it is the first time that I have had lobster scrambled eggs, cheese blintzes, and the most perfect berries for breakfast in a hotel.

The only “leisure” moment in the whole trip was a walk through the Boston Common park with my friend John and enjoying a surprisingly fresh and delicious seafood dinner at the gigantic Legal Seafoods Park Square.

Festival of Genomics Boston

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June 28 and 29 I attended, along with my friend John Memarian, President & CCO of my company Kanteron Systems, the Festival of Genomics Boston, as a Microsoft Genomics Group partner.

Although the show was small, it was a great opportunity to network with industry and academic experts (from Harvard Professors to Illumina executives) and learn.

From scientific posters to the latest sequencing technologies, from robotic arms to genomics experiments in space, it was great #geekfun.