19 May 2023

Luka Opasic: Evolutionary Biology and Detecting Diseases Through Eye Movements

Describing Luka Opasic as an interesting person would be quite an understatement. He is a doctor, software developer and researcher - and none of these titles describe him very well, as he’s somehow a combination of all of these, but then again something different, too.

He studied medicine in Zagreb, Croatia, and later did his PhD in Germany. In that context, he worked at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology (where he was the first medical doctor ever), focusing on writing software to simulate the evolution of tumors. That work resulted in a software called CancerSim, written in Python and published as a paper and on GitHub. He continued his research at the Cleveland Clinic for a year. For the past 1.5 years, he worked at a Norwegian Healthtech company called Bulbitech where he was Chief Data Officer. Bulbitech develops software to detect eye movement disorders. Now, he’s an AI Projects Clinical Coordinator at ZEISS Medical Technology.

I was really excited to talk to Luka. He went down the “hardcore maths coding route” when he got into his evolutionary biology research, so he’s not really a “normal” software developer and much less a normal medical doctor. In addition to that, he has successfully made the transition from research to industry which many people I know have considered very difficult - it’s often hard to find your first job or you simply don’t know what job you’re looking for. And, on top of that, I think Luka is simply incredibly smart, so I was really excited about our conversation!

Things we talked about

  • How he got into evoluationary biology
  • How he became the first doctor to join the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology as a researcher
  • His research on modelling cancer in software
  • Why he moved back from the US (doing research at the Cleveland Clinic) to Germany
  • How he managed to leave research to join the startup industry, getting his job at Bulbitech
  • What he did at Bulbitech: Detecting diseases through eye movements
  • Why writing skills are so important

Listen to the Episode

  • Luka on LinkedIn.
  • CancerSim: The software (python package) which Luka co-developed for the simulation of cancer.
  • Bulbitech: The startup Luka worked at, building software for detecting diseases through eye movements.