• Insights

Published on June 20, 2022 by Angela Blake

The RheoCube team is made up of a diverse group of scientists, researchers, thinkers, and dreamers. In our latest series, we bring you some of the behind-the-scenes drivers of RheoCube. Today we have Youri Ran, who shares some insights into what led him to Electric Ant Lab, and his role as a student research assistant under EAL.

What made you interested in chemistry early on?

My interest in chemistry started with finding patterns in the natural sciences. I had an interest in biochemistry, because of the ability to describe what was happening to living things through chemistry, which itself is governed by physical laws. There is an underlying reductionist philosophy that really sparked my interest. 

You’ve been a part of EAL since 2019 with some breaks, how did you find yourself returning to EAL between experiences?

Well, I came in as a student as a part-time software tester. In the early days I was just playing around with this simulation software (which was completely new to me) and catching bugs along the way. Soon after, I started doing some scientific validation for our usage of Hansen Solubility Parameters (HSP) parameters and later nonionic surfactants on the molecular level. 

Yes, I am a bit of a boomerang, I left on two occasions for research projects for my masters. For me the challenging scientific environment and the lively and enthusiastic team with which we get to tackle these problems are what makes me like being at EAL. This is my third stint at EAL and this time as a PhD student! 

What is your PhD revolving around?

My PhD is about describing chemical systems in terms of physical governing laws. Specifically, I am developing methods for coarse-graining of atomistic simulations. In atomistic simulations one has to deal with immense amounts of degrees of freedom and through coarsening one can really reduce the dimensionality, while keeping the interesting physics.

What does your role as a research assistant now entail, and who guides you in your student role?

My job is pretty similar to what university PhD students do during their PhD. I carry out research in the field of physical chemistry and I aim to publish this research. We have a partnership with the Computational Soft Matter lab at the University of Amsterdam and they guide me in the process. The most rewarding part of the project is the fact that I am so close to valorization of the science. Christophe Vaillant, PhD, who is my supervisor within EAL, works on implementing techniques similar to my project into Rheocube, so I am directly involved with the industry application of the science.

Where do you see EAL’s product, RheoCube, positioned in the future, and what aspects do you find most interesting to discuss?

I have a long road ahead of me for this project, but it’s always fun to think of the big picture. I have always admired the reductionist philosophy and Rheocube is moving into the world of multiscale physics. Connecting physics across multiple scales is not at all trivial and some concepts that are very fundamental to all physical sciences. For me personally that’s a challenge I am always up for.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see in the field so far?

If you see science as an ever-expanding volume of knowledge, we as Rheocube are constantly at the boundary of this volume. What we want to be able to do has often never been done before by anyone. One of the reasons I came in here as a research student is that there is not currently any solution for the problems we are having. It is super exciting to be able to do that, but it also requires a lot of real research and validation to be able to do that. The EAL team is a group of bright minds who are enjoying doing just that, but sometimes it is a very steep hill to climb.

Read our article from Youri here on the World of Surfactants, and follow us for more insights from our team, and RheoCube, on Twitter and LinkedIn.