Modeling Matter(s)

Modeling Matter(s), Epsiode 2

Sukrit Silas: RNA Viruses, Y Combinator, and the Ingredients for Doing Good Science

Modeling Matter(s) is a podcast that showcases early career researchers and the mental models they use to investigate the world around us.

Sukrit Silas is an expert in RNA viruses, an enthusiastic dinner party host, and one of my favorite story tellers. In this podcast, Sukrit and I discuss many of the ingredients needed to do good science (e.g. intuition, humility, and knowing what you know and don’t know) and how we learn them. Sukrit also shares his business adventures (including reverse culture shock) in running clinical trials in India for the start-up he and his colleagues started through the prestigious incubator Y Combinator.

Modeling Matter(s) - Episode 2
Recording date: 2020.10.17
Release date: 2020.12.14
Guest: Sukrit Silas
Host: Tess Smidt

Time Index:

2:03 - COVID-19 in India and US: Expectations vs. Reality
5:24 - Before COVID-19, an unbiased survey of RNA viruses in the oceans
5:45 - Volunteering with the UCSF COVID-19 testing facility
9:15 - How it felt to be part of testing effort
10:40 - Origin of interest in biology
11:50 - Why are so many of your friends physicists?
14:28 - Similarities between Biology and Law
15:30 - Asking the right question
16:03 - Being observant and checking assumptions
16:31 - Learning how to construct a good experiment
18:18 - The sea captain’s intuition vs. SONAR
19:32 - Knowing what you do and don’t know
20:56 - Trust the experiment. Trust the model.
22:35 - Most useful things learned in graduate school
23:16 - What else if not biology?
24:09 - The complexity of living systems
24:58 - Humility and curiosity
25:53 - The more functional way of doing something
28:23 - Y Combinator
30:50 - Finding a niche in India
33:29 - Reverse culture shock
35:31 - Perspectives and incentives
36:08 - Investors
37:37 - No time for A to X. We need A to A.5.
38:22 - Being on the other side of a corporate bank account
39:54 - Summary of YC experience
41:46 - Back in research
44:45 - Lesson on the difficulty of pivots
45:34 - What genes to go after?
46:48 - Which genes are breaking order?
49:33 - The dynamic and dramatic process of virus - host warfare
52:00 - Donate to your local phage biologist TODAY!
52:48 - Community from dinner parties
58:05 - Wrap-up!