About

Portfolio

Code samples, videos, scientific research, and other projects

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MOAR Learning

Tutorials, MOOCS, self-study, and continuing education of all kinds

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Background

Starting Out

At first glance, my personal history doesn’t seem conducive to work as a skeptic, scientist, and advocate for social justice. Much of my research has been rooted in the intricacies of evolutionary theory, yet as a child I was taught that modern biology is an elaborate hoax. The origins and scope of our universe have captivated me for as long as I can remember - in spite of science classes that contradicted much of modern cosmology, geology, and biology. Even the moral framework that motivates my advocacy is not the one in which I was raised.

These experiences have contributed to my determination to use my technical and scientific skills in support of causes that matter. I have spent much of my adult life as a community activist promoting skepticism, diversity in STEM, and public science literacy. Moving forward, my overall goal is to make the greatest possible impact as an evidence-based advocate for a better world.

Becoming a Scientist

My introduction to scientific research involved using bioinformatics to study the evolution of a protein family. This experience was an incredibly valuable introduction to the process of answering scientific questions, and an opportunity to learn the programming skills that have made the rest of my work possible.

Because evolution is an unguided search - which tends to find ‘good enough’ solutions rather than optimal ones - evolutionary insight can often lead to functional insight. In the case of the protein family I studied, there is an alternative form of the protein without the ‘on switch’ - creating a safeguard against developmental abnormalities and cancer.

To further develop my skills in bench chemistry and experimental design, I joined a protein bioengineering lab. My goal was to uncover the structure of a viral protein, which also had chemical properties that show promise for engineering drug delivery nanoparticles.

My recent research has involved one of today's most difficult computational problems: protein structure prediction. Many devastating diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, are related to defects in protein structure. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics can also be caused by a critical change in protein structure.

In addition to the human costs of these issues, the problems themselves are innately irresistible - with solutions that require a combination of chemical intuition, clever computation, and an understanding of the protein’s evolutionary past. With an international team of scientists and engineers, I helped build and use a suite of software to predict protein structure and design synthetic molecules.

Beyond the satisfaction of working on fascinating and important problems, my scientific experiences left me with a broad base of technical and intellectual skills for tackling hard problems in any context.


Blog

Tech Projects

Blog posts about projects ranging from a Raspberry Pi web server to bots that help non-profits keep in touch with their followers

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GitHub


Elantrian on Github