Meet the Team: Max Hume

Q&A with Maxwell Hume, Senior Software Engineer (Pipeline Development)


What is your favorite quote?

“Learning to write clean code is hard work. It requires more than just knowledge of the principles and patterns. You must sweat over it. You must practice it yourself, and watch yourself fail. You must watch others practice it and fail. You must see them stumble and retrace their steps. You must see them agonize over decisions and see the price they pay for making those decisions the wrong way.” –Robert C. Martin

What do you do at Vizgen?

My principal role is to coordinate the analysis of the MERFISH data after it comes off of MERSCOPE® instruments. The data needs to be processed appropriately on a dedicated analysis computer and then uploaded to cloud storage. I’ve written a lot of the code to carry out the necessary data transfers, and I help ensure that they are executed smoothly, and right things when they go wrong. I also contribute to our growing informatics engineering requirements as we build out more automated and streamlined data processes.

How did you end up at Vizgen, why did you choose to join the team?

I transitioned to Vizgen from Novartis after working there for 6 years on the oncology data science team. It was my first job in the biotech industry, and I learned a lot there, but it was such a huge ecosystem that it often felt hard to contribute meaningfully. Eventually I was ready to move on and make a bigger impact in a smaller space. My work in oncology had acquainted me with single-cell and spatial transcriptomics technologies, and I was immediately fascinated by them. Vizgen showed a lot of potential as a company and so far has already delivered quite well on that potential in the less than a year that I’ve worked here.

Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of great mentors over the years who have been willing to share their time and knowhow with me. Seeing people solve problems in real time is the best way to learn to do it. Software can be unkind to the more experienced – those who persist in the field and are able to adapt to the ever-changing landscape have a certain quality that I try to emulate whenever I can. I can only describe it as an unceasing search for technological perfection (in terms of power, efficiency, ease of use, clear communication, etc.) that one knows will never fully manifest, but nevertheless trying to approach it in as asymptotic a fashion as possible.

Can you share a turning point or defining moment in your work as a scientist?

Fresh out of school in the fall of 2010, I got hired to work in a neuroscience lab as a research assistant. I lasted about a month before they let me go. I had always loved the science and had managed to get by with a biology degree, but found the aspects of lab bench work emphasizing physical repetition and precision to be frustratingly tedious and difficult, and it was reflected in my work. Nevertheless, I thought I could make a career out of it, and losing the job was a serious blow at the time. But after taking some time to re-orient myself, I realized I could apply the same analytical thinking, intellectual passion, and biological expertise in new ways that intersected with my love of computers. I found myself taking to programming and software engineering quite naturally, and I have never looked back.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

Among other things, I’ve been an avid amateur runner since 2015. Since then, I’ve run several marathons, and more shorter races than I can possibly remember (and a few longer). I have a closet full of medals and more free T-shirts than I know what to do with. I particularly like to run up mountains all over New England. I’m always trying to shave off a little time or add some distance. I plan on completing an event in the coming fall where I will run 75-100 miles of trail over the course of 30 hours (exact distance TBD), along with many other races along the way, barring any COVID-related complications. The pandemic resulted in a long hiatus, but I’m trying to come back in hot. Running buddies always welcome.

Interested in working with Max  and the entire Vizgen Team? Visit our careers page to review current openings.