For our Behind the Breakthrough this week, we’re profiling Courosh Mehanian, a Principal Research Scientist at Global Good and the Intellectual Ventures Lab. Courosh is a computer vision scientist with a background in physics and a love for learning about biology and medicine. 

Courosh works on developing techniques to help diagnose malaria from blood smears on a microscope, developing the algorithm that analyzes the images and detects the disease.

Here are some of his reflections:

On the most rewarding part of working with IV:

“The fact that I’m working on problems that are going to benefit a large part of the world that is not served as well by technology and research makes it all the more satisfying. We’re trying to help people that otherwise wouldn’t be helped.

I think I find that a lot of the people here are motivated by that same desire to do good in the world, and that’s very refreshing. When you’re working with a group of people who are all smart, creative and share an interest in making a difference, that’s an ideal combination.”

On being motivated by challenges: 

“I like tricky problems. I remember when I was a graduate student. For my thesis, when things got really hard, my advisor would tell me, ‘This is great. That means the problem is fighting back.’ He really taught me to appreciate the opportunity to sink my teeth into difficult problems.”

On his role models: 

“My first role model was my godmother. She was the most virtuous person you’ve ever met in your life. She was always kind and generous. My second role model was a physics teacher I had in high school. He was so dedicated to teaching and so excited about physics that he ultimately inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. in physics. And then, my advisor when I was in graduate school was an exemplary person. He really loved and thrived on challenges. He was very inspiring.

In terms of well-known people, I’ve always really admired Einstein and thought, ‘wow, what an imagination’ for how he put his thoughts into equations that really changed the state of our knowledge of the universe.”

On what contributed to his success: 

“Number one would be luck. Serendipity. Being at the right place at the right time. Another part of it is always starting with basic principles and trying to understand something from basics, which will help lead you to a solution. And then the third thing is being willing to talk with other people and listen. Hear their ideas and see how they can help shape your own approach to a problem and move from there. Sometimes, sparks of imagination originate from the interplay of different ideas. But sometimes they seem to come from nowhere when you are alone in a quiet place.”

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