Open Source Goodness

Dec 15, 2022 | 3 minutes read

Series: outreachy

Tags: ersilia, machine-learning

I have recently been accepted into Outreachy’s Winter22-23 cohort and this blog is first of a series where I will document this adventure. Within this program, I am working with Ersilia which is a “non profit organization supporting drug discovery research for infectious diseases in low-income countries”.

Outreachy is a competitive program with the single aim of empowering underrepresented people in tech with many opportunities to learn and grow by contributing to open source software. There have been a number of fantastic articles written about getting accepted as an intern, and these were my anchor during my application as well,and so I will not repeat what has already been said, however a good TL;DR is:

  • Be curious about the project that you’re applying to, and ask a lot of questions!
  • Be consistent in your contributions and your participation within the community of fellow applicants and mentors.
  • Be collaborative with your fellow applicants whether it’s in terms of helping someone get unstuck or sharing a useful resource with the community because you learn more together than you do alone.

I chose to work with Ersilia because of several reasons, some practical and some because of my values. I will get the practical reasons out of the way first:

  • They sought four interns which naturally increased my chances of getting accepted compared to projects that sought 1 or 2 interns.
  • It is a small team which in my experience usually translates to better and effective communication and more individualized attention;
  • And finally, it involves the best of both worlds: machine learning and fundamental science (chemistry). Ever since I watched the Matrix movies I was fascinated with the idea of applying computational methods to branches of fundamental science (particularly Neuroscience, well, because The Matrix!). I have since tiptoed around computational biology and computational neuroscience by reading blogs our auditing open courses, however this seemed like a great opportunity to finally experience a part of it!

As for my value system, I think Kurzgesagt’s take on “optimistic nihalism” sums it up best. If there is no meaning to the world then why not assign meaning to it and why not do it in a way that ensures collective benefit of everyone. I have experienced practicing empathy, compassion, and rational thinking to be the most rewarding ways of leading life. In this light I see machine learning as a tool being put to great use within Ersilia’s mission and I am grateful that I will get to make an impact in this venture.

Within next posts chronicling my Outreachy story, I will cover some open source jargon, chemistry concepts I have had to brush up on and what helped me, a 101 on how machine learning with chemical datasets looks like, and everything else that I hope to learn within the coming weeks.