Passion to programming + background in biology =
Career at Insilico Medicine
Olga Novitskaya, 2021 MSc in Data Science | Big data specialist, Insilico Medicine
Meet Olga Novitskaya, whose desire to participate in projects including programming and biology became a logical continuation of her career at Insilico Medicine. Enjoy her story!
why I chose Skoltech
I did my bachelor research in Biophysics at MIPT, and I am thankful to my first supervisors for my first steps at the research which I did molecular dynamic simulations of membrane proteins at. However, I decided not to be limited only by the computational technique applied to a set of biological problems and to try something more. Also, I wanted to improve my practical programming skills and study the perspective Data Science field, which also can be useful for tasks in Biology. I was aware from my MIPT friends that Skoltech has a strong Data Science programme with high quality professors and motivated students. The main reason for joining is that Skoltech is a place where I could grow up as a professional.

The purpose of Data Science program is to meet demands of hi-tech market and to equip the most talented young scientists with high-level knowledge and experience in machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, industrial data analytics, natural language processing, mathematical modelling and other important areas of modern data science.

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my career journey
All the time I wanted to participate in projects including physics or programming and biology. When I was a second year master student I started to search for positions in industry, however I was not sure that I could find a position in Data Science and Biology at the same time. So I applied my CV to IT companies, even those not connected with Biology. I was accepted for an internship position at Huawei at the beginning of the second year, but they requested my supervisor's permission first. Unfortunately, my supervisor didn't approve for me to work while studying, therefore I had to reject the position. I realized that he was right, and it would be difficult to work and conduct good research in parallel, but a successful interview made me feel more confident.

At the end of my study at Skoltech, I came across Skoltech Career Center which helps to find positions for the students and connects with HR from interested companies that collaborated with Skolkovo. Also I found a position at Insilico Medicine but it required more experienced candidates than me. Despite this fact, I understood that this company has high correlation with my expectations and I decided to try my luck and send my CV through two ways: HeadHunter and Lada — the Head of Skoltech Career Center. I was lucky to be interviewed and accepted.

my ongoing projects
The official name of my position is a Big Data Specialist at Insilico Medicine, however I would consider it as a machine learning researcher. Currently, I have two projects in the InClinico product: the prediction of drug side effects via knowledge graph approaches and the prediction of links between pharma companies' press releases, containing information about clinical trials, and indices of clinical trials. While working under the first project, I have studied a lot about graph approaches that had been an uncovered topic for me before. I have tested benchmarks, collected and preprocessed data, and also applied models to our graph dataset.

Now I am focused on the second project, that has higher priority because it needs to be embedded in the product before its launch. I have made feature engineering, experimented with classifiers, started to work with parallelization of processes to improve quality and performance.
practical application of what I learned at Skoltech
The main skill that I have developed during my research is independence in research planning, which is an important skill in real life and at my current work (Editor's Note: "independence in research planning" is an opportunity to begin to demonstrate the creative and independent thinking required of a successful scientist). First steps were difficult for me, because I used to discuss every step and I was afraid to be wrong, so I needed to ask for advice on how to fix problems in a better way. After some time I was feeling free in decision making and started to apply and check ideas on my own. My scientific advisor was Professor Ivan Oseledets who is a talented mathematician and a busy open-minded person with mountains of various projects. I decided to choose him after finishing the Numerical Linear Algebra course which I loved because the course was so challenging and it had useful and interesting material.

Skoltech gave me a good background that allows me to study state-of-the-art techniques applicable to work problems. At Skoltech I faced many complex concepts and I learned how to deal with them, how to understand them, and I studied to study.
my typical day
In the morning I have a meeting with our product owner, we discuss my progress from yesterday and my plans for today. I do my job according to the discussed plan and meet with the product owner the next day. Because of working at the startup I have had many different tasks: data collection and preprocessing, scrapping, models' creation and validation, process parallelization, model deployment on the servers. So, I am not bored with some monotonous tasks and have many opportunities to improve my skills. Also, I attend English classes in the evening twice a week.

my advice to current students
● Don't be afraid of new ideas and opportunities.
● Discuss problems and possible ways of solutions (without cheating).
● Improve your skills all the time, you don't know what you will need the next day.
● Try to apply for a position you want, be assertive (Editor's Note: "to be assertive" means to have or show a confident and bold personality). Positive or negative feedback and interview questions are very valuable. You can ask and understand which skills you should improve to get the position.
Correct your CV according to the position, underline real skills that correspond to the job.
about Insilico Medicine
Insilico Medicine is a leader in the field of artificial intelligence aimed at creating new drugs, searching for biomarkers and researching age-dependent diseases and aging. The company focuses on two machine learning techniques: generative models and reinforcement learning.

Insilico Medicine platform is used for two main purposes: the identification of biological targets and biomarkers based on many types of biological and textual data, as well as the creation of new molecules, new molecular structures with a certain set of properties.

If you are close to the field of artificial intelligence for creating medicines, send your CV to

and now about Skoltech
We are Skoltech – a new international English-speaking STEM university that was founded by the group of world-renowned scientists in 2011 in Moscow, Russia. In just 8 years, we united dozens of researchers and globally renowned professors, built a stunning campus, set up world-class labs and made it to the top 100 young universities in the Nature Index. Read more >>
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