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Meet Danika Khong of Scismic in Cambridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danika Khong.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It all began in Melbourne (Australia), where I was fortunate to serendipitously end up doing my PhD in Prof. Richard Boyd’s laboratory at Monash University. He was energetic and his team passionate about the projects they were doing. I was attracted to that synergy of energies that hit every time I visited the lab. Prof. Boyd conducted his research in what I thought, was a very unique way at that time; always with the intention for commercialization. My education thus trained me to work to develop solutions through my science. At the end of my PhD, Prof. Boyd sat me down and we discussed strategies for my career moving forward. His advice, go to America to do a post doc. I took it and a year later, was at Harvard University for my first post doc.

The scientific environment in Boston/Cambridge was exciting. I was always in close proximity to rock-star scientists, whose papers and research I had followed diligently. I was overcome with enthusiasm and a drive to push my work forward like I had never felt before. However, I also begin to observe breakdowns in the scientific system here that I had not experience back home. The scientific workforce seemed demotivated and their creativity oppressed. It was hard to watch, that in an environment with such great opportunity to succeed, a lot of people were not succeeding by their own metrics. Post docs were not always supported towards furthering their academic careers and were not informed of other career options available to them. My solution-focused training kicked in. I teamed up with two friends and founded Scismic.

Today, Scismic’s mission is to empower scientists to take charge, propel their careers, and find work environments that fit their needs. As for me? Well 6 years, 2 post docs, and 5-Boston winters later, I have recently transitioned from academia to industry and am thrilled to be pushing Scismic to new heights! In addition, and perhaps of utmost importance, I am also starting to explore and discover Boston and reignite my passions outside of my scientific endeavors.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No, I wouldn’t say it has been a smooth road all the way. Having moved oceans and having left a great support network behind, navigating through the highly competitive and fast-paced scientific environment here was very challenging. My work-life balance shifted towards more of a work-work schedule and over the course of my first post doc, I had started to lose myself in my work. The prospect of achieving great heights scientifically and making my time here in Boston count led me to prioritize away from the things outside of science that kept me balanced. I had underestimated the importance of those factors in my life!

It took me a couple of years and another post doc to rediscover myself. I had to build a network of people outside of work and engaged in other interests. I actually noticed that that definitely had a positive impact on me and my work in fact. This included getting to know the city that I now call home, but knew not much about. Boston has been fun to get to know. Porchfests, the little hidden parks, the absolutely brilliant live music scene, and beer selection! I’ve been having a lot of fun discovering this city!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Scismic story. Tell us more about the business.
Scismic is an online tool for scientists to search for jobs that match their training requirements and technical skills. We currently offer two free features for scientists, Scismic Lab Seeker is a database of labs around the world offering information highlighting these factors: Mentorship, Management, Funding, Institutional Policies and Work-life Balance. The goal of Scismic Lab Seeker is to provide prospective lab members with some insight into the training styles of labs and enable them to select labs that match their requirements as a trainee. The mission is to enhance the trainer-trainee fit towards better outcomes in research quality and career support for trainees. Our second feature is Scismic Job Seeker, which is an algorithmically-driven platform that matches scientists to industry positions. Job Seeker will save scientists time and frustration in searching for jobs and is FREE for users. It will also save recruiters and companies’ time, cost, and effort in screening for qualified applicants. In addition, Scismic is very proud to say that Job Seeker promotes diversity and inclusion in industry hiring at no extra cost. We feel this is critical for addressing the disparities that exist in our community today.

I am most proud of our CEO and my co-founder, Elizabeth Wu, who has taken this company leaps and bounds forward towards being a self-sustaining business. As a company, I am most proud of Scismics’ reception amongst the scientific population in Boston. We have been very well received and supported by our scientific community. Scismic is now partnered with the Massachusetts Chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and supported by many post-doctoral associations Boston-wide. We were also featured in Science recently! What sets us apart from others is that we are the users of our service. Scismic was created to help our friends and other scientists in our community find jobs. Our mission is personal.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
We have been very fortunate in our path so far. It has not been easy but it has been very rewarding. In particular, teaming up with our now co-founder, 4Thirteen Group, our technology and marketing brains, has made all this very possible for us to develop and share out platform They make us professional graphics and media materials that help us effectively communicate our message to our community. Their CEO, Danny Gnaniah, has also inadvertently taken up the role of a business and life mentor, a privilege! We have also been very fortunate to have another highly committed and driven business advisor, Mr. Chesley Chen (former CEO of Safety Partners, entrepreneur, and strategic advisor) guiding our decisions and directions.


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Image Credit:
Yibin Chen

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