5 posts tagged “research scientist”

A Day in the Life of PatientsLikeMe Quality Assurance Engineer Brian Boyle

Posted September 19th, 2012 by

What’s it like to work at PatientsLikeMe?  We are continuing to reveal just that with our monthly blog series “A Day in the Life,” which features employees from different departments.  So far, we’ve interviewed User Experience Engineer Cris NecocheaResearch Assistant Shivani Bhargava, Office Manager Alison DuttonResearch Scientist Timothy VaughanBiz Dev’er Arianne GrahamProduct Manager Maureen Oakes and Community Manager Jeanette DeVita.  Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Boyle, who joined the company six months ago to help us maintain excellent quality assurance (QA).  What that means is that when you find a bug in our platform, Brian is the guy who makes sure it gets fixed!

PatientsLikeMe Quality Assurance Engineer Brian Boyle

1.  What’s surprised you the most since joining PatientsLikeMe in March?

PatientsLikeMe is an amazing office to work in. I was immediately welcomed by a team of talented and brilliant individuals. The people here are so nice to be around. The bar of excellence is raised daily, and we challenge ourselves to produce the best possible product. Every morning I arrive to an atmosphere that is rich with confidence and satisfaction of our product.

2.  Tell us about the role of the Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer.

My job at PatientsLikeMe is to collect bug reports from users and co-workers and send them to the engineers. The engineers take the information, locate the problem and fix the code that caused the error. When I collect the bug reports, I research what is causing the problem and prioritize the bug queue. The bugs on my radar are ones that a user would find and that could disrupt their experience on the site. Solving these problems is very rewarding and important for the user experience.

3.  What do you find satisfying – as well as challenging – about your job?

Working closely with users to understand their perspective and then carrying that viewpoint to the engineers is my first priority. It can be challenging working through the volume of requests and researching all of them, while putting them in an acceptable order to be fixed. Fortunately, the engineers are very helpful, offering insights and understanding. I sit with a team of amazing developers I can turn to and ask for help. Working with the engineers to solve problems is immensely satisfying.

4.  I understand you have a lot of active hobbies, such as rock climbing and skiing.  How does that fit into your approach to wellness?

I have found that engaging my mind and body in physical activity encourages a healthy perspective to my thought process. My time away from work is spent working on goals and physical challenges. I have a few different levels of activities that I use to distill my thought process and better serve my prioritization skills.

Brian Boyle Doing His Favorite Activity:  Skydiving

Skiing and team sports are hobbies that I do every once in awhile that allow me to focus on something new for a day. The next level of activities are accomplished a few times a week; rock climbing, yoga, mountain biking and road biking are things I can do after work. My favorite activity is skydiving. I have been jumping out of planes (almost) every warm weekend since 2007. I have over 550 jumps, and I am a tandem instructor at Jumptown in Orange, MA.

My passion in skydiving is tandem jumping and big way jumping. Tandem jumping is hooking up a first jump student to my parachute and taking them on their first skydive. Big way jumping is when I take my own parachute and go up with 60 of my closest friends and jump out of three different airplanes at the same time. I use skydiving to set long term goals. It can take years to attain certain skills in skydiving, and accomplishing those goals is very rewarding.

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Interested in making a difference in patients’ lives?  Check out our Careers page to see our current job openings.  Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, PatientsLikeMe is looking for a Marketing AnalystOutcomes Research Scientist and more at the moment.


A Day in the Life of PatientsLikeMe Research Scientist Timothy Vaughan

Posted April 20th, 2012 by

What’s it like to work at PatientsLikeMe?  We are continuing to reveal just that with our monthly blog series “A Day in the Life,” which features employees from different departments.  So far, we’ve interviewed User Experience Engineer Cris Necochea, Research Assistant Shivani Bhargava and Office Manager Alison Dutton.  Today we hear from Research Scientist Timothy Vaughan, who earned his PhD in physics before deciding to focus his simulation and modeling skills on medical questions.

1.  What research projects are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a few different things. My primary focus recently has been on modeling multiple sclerosis (MS). As just about anyone with the disease can tell you, MS is a highly complex, highly variable illness. To even get a good description of the experience of a patient is a challenge. As one of the “mathy” people at PatientsLikeMe, my job is to try to make the description as systematic and quantitative as possible, because mathematical relationships are often the best tools in trying to solve the underlying puzzle of what the body is doing.

PatientsLikeMe Research Scientist Timothy Vaughan, PhD

So, for example, I have recently been looking at some of the ways that symptoms and the Multiple Sclerosis Rating Scale (MSRS) are interrelated, which may help us understand how functioning and symptoms go together. And, although I am focusing on MS, I am constantly struck by how certain concepts seem to apply across conditions, so I am hopeful that we can learn things that will ultimately help all our patients.

2.  Tell us how computer simulation and modeling help you do your job.

It is fair to say that my job would not even exist without computer simulation and modeling! Partly because clinical trials and other scientific methodologies have become so expensive and time-consuming, scientists in healthcare have to really become creative in trying to learn more about patients and their conditions. Simulations and modeling are becoming essential tools in the era of “big data” that PatientsLikeMe is at the forefront of.

3.  What do you see ahead in terms of PatientsLikeMe’s research potential?

I have to quote the Danish physicist Niels Bohr: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” I think almost everyone in healthcare right now believes that patient-reported outcomes are going to be of greater and greater influence in the future…but no one is 100% certain how!

In many ways, research is forced to be in a somewhat opportunistic position, because one is never quite sure where the most promising frontiers are, where one is most likely to discover something interesting and useful for patients. But our research potential really stems from our patients. Their willingness to share how they are doing, in so many ways, gives us potential to not just work on what appears to be interesting now, but to quickly respond to new directions that might arise in the future.

4.  What are the three best things about working at PatientsLikeMe?

For me personally, the best thing about PatientsLikeMe is that every morning I wake up knowing that everything I work on is not just scientifically “interesting” (although I like that!), but also really has the potential to help patients’ lives. So, even though the work can be frustrating at times, it is always worthwhile.

The second awesome thing, and it’s almost a cliché to say around is here, is that the people here are so passionate and smart and great to work (and play!) with. Seeing other people working hard and caring deeply about what they do is a great motivation.  The third awesome thing: Alison makes sure there is a constant supply of York Peppermint Patties in the kitchen.