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Scientist in the Spotlight: Jacob Trock, Software Engineer at PhAST Diagnostics

Read about Jacob's journey to biomedical programming where he finds joy along the way with interests spanning from welding and furniture design to graphic design and mobile programming.

What is your earliest memory of being interested in science? "My earliest memory would be in early elementary school when my computer lab teacher introduced me to the Arduino, which was a programmable board. I bought one at home and had lots of fun with it."

What is your favorite lab equipment to use? "Personally, I mainly work with microscopes which are probably my favorite because they can reveal tiny creatures and shapes which are invisible to our eyes normally. Real good motivation to wash your hands extra."

What's the most challenging part of your field? "I would have to say the most challenging part is de-bugging programs. It can be quite tedious going back and forth to the lab and trying to fix problems that are just about as visible as the bacterium we’re trying to observe, but it’s the most satisfying feeling when you can actually get it working."

What would you like to see for the future of your field of research in 20 years? "Working in the field of rapid diagnostics, it’d be nice to finally see the dream of the small-sample multitest be achieved. Notably, Theranos failed to hit this benchmark, but seeing the amazing things that computer vision has produced in the years after they collapsed, it seems a sure thing to me that this will hopefully be something we can get done at a corner drugstore sometime soon. I’m also a strong advocate for open source so I hope that this solution will be something we can share as a society."

When not working at PhAST Diagnostics, what do you typically like to do? "When I’m not at work, I do some graphic design and furniture design, although I don’t have access to my welding tools at the moment. When I do though, I enjoy making conventionally cool tables and weird chairs. My personal favorite piece is a stool I made out of an I-beam and a tractor seat."

Jacob with his first robot

How did you settle on this career path? "When I first started programming, I wanted to be an engineer like my father, but I soon realized the creative limitations of that career path. I also made flash games at the time, so throughout middle school, I was very much into game programming, however, I corrected course again when I realized the industry’s working conditions. In high school, I was into web and mobile programming, but I realized I spent more time on the look and feel than the core features, so in college, I switched to mainly software engineering, and upon the urging of a bioengineer friend, decided to try and look into biomedical programming careers.

I really enjoy this field, it’s much more formal and professional than the other workplaces I’ve been at, yet not to a stifling degree, and there are always plenty of interesting problems to solve. I see myself staying in this field for the foreseeable future, with the intent to create a startup at some point. So far this seems like one of the best careers in programming to make a genuine difference in the world and improve lives."

A big thank you goes out to Jacob for taking the time this week to be interviewed and to submit photos. If you would like to join Jacob's team, check out the open positions at PhAST Diagnostics here.

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