A blog from one of our great employees about how he joined Citrine and what he does.
A friend had coffee – the rest is history
Steve Edkins completed his undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Mat. Sci.) at the University of Cambridge in 2012, and went on to do a PhD in Condensed Matter Physics at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 2016. While working on a Postdoc at Stanford in 2017, a friend who “had coffee once with Bryce Meredig” (co-founder) told Steve about an up-and-coming materials informatics company called Citrine Informatics. Steve kept tabs on the company as he dug into his research on using ultra-cold laser-cooled gasses of rubidium atoms to image magnetic fields and currents in superconductors.
Jumping at an opportunity
The concept of materials informatics (MI) continued to peak Steve’s interest and he frequently checked in on what Citrine was doing in the space. In 2019, he saw a job open for a Data Scientist at Citrine and he jumped at the opportunity. Two years later, Steve started managing teams of data scientists and data engineers, and now he manages the full Data Science team as the Sr Data Scientist, Strike Team Manager from his home in Acton, MA with his wife, Yuan, and their Garfield-like chihuahua, Dobby (who makes frequent appearances on the #puppers dog Slack channel at the company).
Steve is responsible for ensuring that Citrine’s data scientists are providing the highest quality materials informatics services to our customers. Our data scientists work closely with our data engineers and engagement managers (all part of the Customer Success organization) to support customers as they use the Citrine Platform. There is a large degree of autonomy in a data scientist’s work and Steve’s job is to make sure that everyone in his team has the resources and support they need to produce a successful result for the customer. It is also really important to create growth paths for members on his team so that they can learn and develop in their careers.
In high demand
Data scientists are a hot commodity in the Big Tech industry right now – they’re in high demand and companies are competing for their expertise. At Citrine, we’re proud to have an incredibly brilliant team under Steve’s leadership to lead us to success.
The types of projects that the data scientists at Citrine work on are unique and exciting. They cover a wide variety of materials and chemicals, from beauty products, to saw blades, to high-performance polymers. “The majority of our work as data scientists at Citrine is spent partnering with material scientists, data scientists, and business leaders at our customer companies to kickstart the use of materials informatics in materials R&D. We execute high-value projects to demonstrate the value of MI,” Steve explains.
“These are real materials development projects (ex: developing a new material or refining an existing one). We build models that suggest the next materials/experiments to try in the lab in order to progress toward meeting the product spec. As results of experiments come in, we coach the customer’s team in making adjustments to the models and retrain models to incorporate the new data, then work with subject matter experts (SMEs) to choose the next experiments. This iterative way of working is called Sequential Learning – it’s hands-on, it’s customer focused and it’s really exciting.”
Our data scientists use AI and sequential learning to discover combinations of ingredients that may be unintuitive to a human SME, which helps unlock unprecedented materials performance. “We get to train and coach customers in effectively using MI by providing technical expertise to develop a roadmap for them to deploy the Citrine Platform across their enterprise. We utilize our experience working with customers to refine our tools and process, making sure our technology development is driven by actual needs of our customers. Developing and testing new tools in the wild, if you will,” Steve elaborates.
Steve says one of the most exciting things about working as a data scientist at Citrine is the fact that MI is a young field with a lot of room for growth. “There are lots of exciting new developments in academic literature but no playbook for how to capture value. Citrine’s data scientists are at the forefront of defining that playbook and influencing the way a whole industry is going to do business in the future.”
“We’re often pushing the boundaries of material performance. This means models are making predictions for materials which differ significantly from the training data. We have to build models in a way that anticipates this. For me, it’s really gratifying when you can craft a model that is able to recognize that a novel and unintuitive combination of ingredients can lead to unprecedented material performance. “
And things are moving quickly, too. “As a former experimental physicist, I spent months or years on a single experiment. Working with our customers to use the Citrine platform to suggest new materials, we still get that rush while watching the data come in. We get to work on an enormously wide variety of different materials. It’s incredibly interesting to me to get a window into the effort and thought that is going into the materials that touch every corner of our lives.“
Being a data scientist at Citrine means that no two days are the same, and Steve and his team are making an impact at the cutting-edge, helping to create new materials with some of the leading materials and chemicals companies in the world.
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