On this installment of meet the team, we’re happy to introduce you to Dan Golden, our Senior Image Scientist. Every new CellScope member is only really initiated once they’ve been corralled by Dan to do a set of burpees. Among many unique attributes, Dan is the only one on our team (and that I personally know) who has ever been to the South Pole. And that’s pretty cool! Here’s our interview with Dan.
CellScope (CS): Tell us a bit about your background before joining CellScope.
Dan Golden (DG): I got my Ph.D. at Stanford doing something completely different: studying space physics in Umran Inan’s Very Low Frequency (VLF) research group. Space physics was interesting enough and rife with some great travel opportunities (I traveled to Antarctica twice, including the south pole once). When I was done, I was looking for a topic that would have a more direct impact on peoples’ lives. I stumbled across Professor Daniel Rubin’s radiology work through a class I was auditing and I ended up doing a postdoc in his lab in the Stanford radiology department. There, I focused on extracting features from MRI and CT images in order to predict patient outcomes in response to different therapies. It was a natural jump from working with radiological images to working with ear images at CellScope!
CS: What inspires you to come to work everyday?
DG: You mean besides the computer vision team’s longstanding tradition of daily mandatory (optional) burpees, the complimentary fresh kale salads (and calorie-offsetting peanut butter cups) and the free bike parking? That’s easy: it’s the work. It’s really a rare opportunity to be able to work with such a large volume of high-quality image data where we control the acquisition, storage and processing pipeline from end to end. We have an embarrassment of data riches, and I’m totally stoked to be in prime position to exploit them. And it’s a big help that all the different CellScope teams, including hardware, marketing, and app development, are on board with the mission of keeping the coffers of data well stocked. There are so many amazing things we can do, from simplifying the exam recording process for home users to enhancing the quality of diagnoses for home users and physicians alike. I’m occasionally overwhelmed with the possibilities and need to take a nap under my desk.
(CS): What makes you most excited about CellScope’s future?
DG: When I started at CellScope, the company had a lot of data and a dream, but no data team to put it all together. With a fully assembled data team now in place, we’re working hard to fulfill the vision and we’re making incredible progress. We’re on a very steep slope of development and it’s clear to me that we’re soon going to have a big impact on democratizing medicine, starting with the humble middle ear.
CS: What do you wish you’d had known 5 years ago that you know now.
DG: There aren’t many people who get a Ph.D. intending to go into industry; I know I didn’t. From the beginning, the ivory tower beckoned, and I thought it would be great fun to be an academic professor. If I knew then that I would be going into industry — something I don’t regret for a second — I would have targeted my research and skill development differently, maybe learning more specific industry-standard skills such as MySQL and non-Matlab programming languages. I probably would have also spent less time acquiring deep domain knowledge of space physics (cue my advisor incredulously interjecting, “how could you have learned any less?”). I still would have gone to those “future professor” seminars though — they had free lunch!
CS: What do you enjoy most about working at CellScope?
DG: I get my own smartphone otoscope! I have two small children at home and it does give me peace of mind to have an otoscope on hand… although I was slightly less distressed before I knew how much wax is in my 3-year-old son’s ears (note: marketing has not approved this quote).
CS: What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
DG: Designing things that consumers actually want is very challenging. I’m good at making cool computer vision algorithms that do cool stuff; that’s a classic academic success story. But in industry, if consumers don’t actually want the resulting product features, then they can’t be a success. Our tight integration with marketing and user testing goes a long way towards ensuring that I can work on cool algorithms that people actually want; it’s really encouraging to have other people (besides my mom) excited about my work (note to mom: I still appreciate your support too!).
CS: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
DG: As a parent of two small children, my free time is generally spoken for (or drooled for, in the case of the 6-month-old). I enjoy playing myriad musical instruments with my 3-year-old (the electronic drum kit is a hit) (no pun intended), getting my 6-month-old to giggle (raspberries under the chin are a reliable option), and having extremely abbreviated logistics-related conversations with my wife in the 30-60 seconds per night of free time that we get. On the rare occasions when I escape home life, I enjoy road biking and running for exercise, followed by watching my slow and steady decline in performance on Strava.
CS: What is something no one at CellScope knows about you?
DG: I was a volunteer firefighter in college. My main job was to “stand by smartly” while the real firefighters did the real work. By the end of college, I was darn good at it.
CS: If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
DG: Soylent seems like a good option. Who has time for solid foods these days?
Interested in mobile health and making an impact in healthcare? We’re hiring!