Anastasia Novinskaya, a third year graduate student in computer science at Rice University, recently won an award from the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) to attend the IGNITE 2016 Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Trek.
Her trek to a Ph.D. in computer science began in Moscow, Russia, where she completed her undergraduate studies in computational mathematics and cybernetics at Lomonosov Moscow State University. She’s currently working on modeling the motion and flexibility of proteins with Lydia Kavraki, Rice’s Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and Bioengineering.
Anastasia explained, “Proteins are very large systems and if you model them…it will require a lot of computations.” It could take weeks to produce a small portion of the protein’s motions, and in order to observe what happens in a protein’s lifetime, researchers need more information. To improve this system, Novinskaya is “working on randomized algorithms, and applies dimensionality reduction techniques to accelerate these randomized algorithms.” Ultimately, this information can be used in applications such as drug design.
As an undergraduate at the University of Moscow, Novinskaya performed computer simulation of plasma in the vicinity of black holes. Even though this concept focuses on modeling large-scale processes, she approaches her small-scale research concerning protein motions in a similar way. “The specific area that I was doing my research in there is pretty similar to what I’m doing here,” Novinskaya said, “On a high level, I did scientific computing. It’s computer modeling of some processes that are happening in nature.”
Outside of her research and studies, Novinskaya collaborates with other graduate students in Rice’s engineering division who wish to gain more leadership experience. She helps organize graduate events inspired by the undergraduate activities hosted by RCEL. “We want to help graduate students, as well, to become leaders and develop themselves for an academic pathway or maybe an industry pathway,” she said, “We do a lot of interesting events. We had some people from [the tech] industry talk about how to get a job offer after finishing a PhD track. We also had an event for the commercialization of research and how to patent your ideas.”
When it comes to patenting her own ideas, Novinskaya hopes to use the IGNITE trek to gain advice and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs so she can follow her true aspirations. She’s passionate about career development and hopes to employ her high-tech education to develop an algorithm using machine learning that can answer the question: “What is your true passion?” Novinskaya also plans to provide professional coaching to people who are unsatisfied with their careers so they can follow the pathways to their passions.
-Molly Reilly, Computer Science Assistant Publicist