19 Dec From Lab Tech to CEO: An Interview with Studylog’s Co-founder, Eric Ibsen
Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?
While growing up, my parents kept moving around and somehow, I kept finding them. This made for some rather awkward moments! As a result, I’ve lived all over the country in Illinois, Maine, Texas, New Hampshire, Germany, and Ghana in West Africa. I went to Texas A&M University and graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Zoology. I got my start in Cancer Research as a cooperative education student.
What sparked your interest in science?
I think Jacques Cousteau and Marlon Perkins on Wild Kingdom. I was fascinated with the wilderness and the ocean and wanted to wear a tiny red cap and speak with a French accent and say things like “Ee ehmehrges from the depths after eons of being soobmehrged…” In sixth grade I wanted to be a marine biologist and had saltwater fish tanks with Octopuses and even a deadly-poisonous Lion Fish. What in the heck were my parents thinking? Perhaps seven kids were too many? I was pre-med. Doing the cooperative education job at the Stehlin Foundation for Cancer Research was cool, as we were doing some pretty early xenograft work with tumors, we would take directly from surgery to the lab for propagation and testing. Real translational science! This fueled that love of science because I saw how people were helped.
What would you say to a young person considering a career in science or, specifically, oncology?
I would say to go for it. We are literally on the cutting edge of a new scientific age now with a variety of technologies like CRISPR, Immunotherapeutics, and the microbiome. It’s never been more of an exciting time to be in Science.
What is important to you personally? I.e.What things do you value most in life?
What I value most in life is my three grown kids and new grandson as well as my fellow team members here at Studylog. I’m most grateful for the opportunity to do work that makes a difference in the lives of patients with cancer and other diseases while also making researchers jobs easier and more efficient.
What are some of the challenges you have faced either in your career or personally that you feel have helped you become the successful scientist and person you are?
Having a paper route from age 8 to 13- having to deliver papers every single day for 5 years in snow drifts that were higher than my head, no matter what the weather, taught me persistence. Setting up a fair trade company in Ghana while starting a family there humbled me and taught me the lessons of my own limitations. Belief in your own abilities isn’t always enough, as some walls are too high to climb. Knowing your limitations are important. The whole enterprise of co-founding Studylog and then developing and selling our software around the world has taught me the value of working with people who have gifts and talents who are different, yet complementary, to my own. Working with people who really care about their work is a really rare experience.
What is your favorite Studylog feature?
I really like the ability to do rolling enrollment so that we can run studies that are clinically relevant far more easily and on a larger scale than with Excel.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working on trying to make the world a better place?
I love to go hiking, outrigger canoeing, and stand-up open mic comedy. I love being outdoors and being on the water. Paddling out under the Golden Gate Bridge in a six-man canoe is both terrifying and exhilarating. It’s dangerous for boats with motors, but doing it with five other people with paddles is an indescribable adventure. I do the open mic comedy because it is just as scary! It’s really challenging, really fun, and I believe we could all use more laughter. For me, there’s nothing sweeter than hearing my kids repeat my own dumb dad jokes.