Lucas Ting has been a geek at heart from the start.
Originally from Northern Illinois, Ting attended a dedicated math and science high school where he made miniature robots and played “Magic: The Gathering.” In college, he worked on solar-powered houses, autonomous cars, and microfluidics. He moved to Seattle for graduate school at the University of Washington and stayed because he calls Seattle “the best city in the world.”
Ting’s research passions in grad school evolved into a startup he co-founded, called Stasys Medical. The company, which spun out from the UW and now works out of CoMotion, is trying to transform how blood transfusions are targeted and used in hospital emergency rooms. It’s a problem Ting has been working continuously on since 2010 and he’s dedicated to bringing it to more hospitals and clinics.
Ting, who is GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week, said that when he first started graduate school, his research project was on analyzing the mechanical remodeling of the endothelium (the layer of protective cells that line blood vessels) in response to blood flow. Tinkering and experimenting and discovering along the way, Ting said he didn’t consciously choose to focus on blood (and clotting), but he knew it was something he could figure out.
“It’s incredible how in science, you can go down one route and come up with a solution to problems someone else knows about but you’re blind to,” Ting said.
He said that living and working in Seattle is amazing for a variety of reasons.
“People here are willing to put in the work and sweat to pursue the future, even if the odds are long and the pursuit itself is a moonshot,” Ting said. “It’s often too easy to be dissatisfied or even mildly satisfied with what currently exists and settle for it, and not be willing to grind through disappointments to get to where you want to be. People are willing to establish their base in Seattle, and invest in themselves, and perfect whatever it is they’re going after.”
Seattle also has a “ridiculous inherent natural beauty and variety to the landscape,” Ting said, and this “allows people to experience many different physical views of the world around them on a regular basis.”
“I think this embeds an appreciation in people who live here that everyone is interconnected in society, that no one is an island, and that you are in charge of how you impact the world,” Ting said. “I’m from the flatlands of Illinois, so growing up everything was pretty much just eye level all the time. It turns out the z-axis is pretty important.”
Learn more about GeekWire’s Geek of the Week, Lucas Ting:
What do you do, and why do you do it? “I’m the principal engineer at Stasys Medical, a medical device company that was founded to commercialize my Ph.D. research and solve the problem of undetected bleeding in trauma patients. I do some of everything from classic mechanical CAD work and fabrication, to testing the effects of medications and targeted therapies on blood cells like platelets, to coding the programs that run our devices, to big data analysis and statistics, to blood fluid dynamic simulations, to designing and fabricating silicon wafers, to meeting and working with ER doctors & researchers at sites. It’s never boring when your team is small and tasks need to be done yesterday. I love being able to work across so many fields and interact with so many different perspectives, and I really want to be able to point to something and say, ‘Hey, this exists in the real world now, and it’s improving people’s lives!'”
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Blood is such a complex part of the body, and that it can have massive influence on both short term and long term health. Having the ability to measure even a component of it like platelets in a fast, reliable way can open up the doors to tremendous improvements in health. So many Americans are on blood-thinners and anti-clotting medications but people have wildly different responses in how effective the medication is on them. I think the biggest misconception with these medications is that one dose works for everyone. One individual taking a single baby aspirin daily may have their clotting totally wiped out and be at a high risk of having uncontrolled bleeding if they become injured, but a different individual taking a cocktail of five different platelet inhibitors may still have overly active platelets that puts them at risk of getting blood clots that can cause stroke or a heart attack. Being able to personalize the dose of the medication to an individual would let the doctor assign an optimal dose to balance bleeding risk with clotting risk.”
Where do you find your inspiration? “National Geographic. Seriously! I used to read every issue of it when I was younger, and recently I’ve been rediscovering my love of the natural world. It’s so amazing seeing how diverse the Earth and its peoples are. Knowing that someone went here, and met these people and looked into this culture or this problem for something that I’ve never even thought about throughout the entire time I’ve been alive is so awe-inspiring. I find inspiration there, because I know that the I’m trying to solve is solvable, and it only takes dedication and passion and hard work to get there.”
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “I’m not a cyborg so I think I could technically live without any single piece of technology. I’ve gone long periods of not having internet, or a computer, and I didn’t even have a smart phone until 2014. That said, the one piece of technology that is most critical to my everyday workflow is MATLAB. Working with large sets of data and running calculations on terabytes of images for example would be impossible if I didn’t learn how to work and think about problems within that environment. It’s also given me a huge appreciation to what sorcery there is in modern facial recognition. How can Facebook identify my friend’s face in a dark grainy photo? I’m proud to even identify a circle in a dark background image. Shoutout to the bwmorph() function.”
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “My workspace used to be a desk in a hallway in a university building, so my current workspace of being in a cube in an incubator on the UW campus is a strict upgrade. Having a small set of desks in a shared environment lets us keep costs down and enables us to keep doing experiments with our grant dollars.”
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Worry about problems, and it’s OK to panic as your first reaction, but don’t panic as your second reaction. Think about every possible solution so that you can understand the options laid out. This applies to every problem! ‘Don’t Panic’ should be scrawled on more things.”
Mac, Windows or Linux? “Windows. I love building a PC from parts.”
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Picard due to his omnipresence in the cultural zeitgeist.”
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Transporter. I would visit friends and family and strangers across the globe all the time. Time Machines and Cloak of Invisibility are for regrets and creepiness, and they’re too slippery of a slope to second guessing everything about your life.”
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “try to raise another $1 million to get through the FDA process.”
I once waited in line for … “Sneakers. Jordan 12 ‘Flu Game’. The shoes Michael Jordan wore when he was sicker than anybody in the arena but a better basketball player than anybody in the world.”
Your role models: “Such a Seattle answer, but Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet. No other entity is having as much of an impact on global health than their foundation. It truly is amazing and I hope we can work with them someday on improving blood transfusions in areas where supplies are always short.”
Greatest game in history “‘Magic: The Gathering.’ The depth and complexity means every game is different and multiple paths can be taken by every person.”
Best gadget ever: “Stick with a pointy rock on it. Really got humans to the top of the animal kingdom.”
First computer: “Pentium II with MMX. That MMX is key. If you don’t have MMX you’re not even using a computer.”
Current phone: “Nokia 1020 Windows Phone.”
Favorite app: “What are apps? Is that something I can get for my Windows phone?”
Favorite cause: “Improving access to health care and health services.”
Most important technology of 2016: “Tesla 3.”
Most important technology of 2018: “Stasys Medical Blood Clot Analyzer ;-)”
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Get out there and dance around. You’ll look silly and have fun. And … it’ll help reduce the risk for blood clots.”
Website: Stasys Medical
LinkedIn: Lucas Ting