Atom Spotlight: Q&A with Mostafa Ahmed, Scientist

October 20, 2020
Careers, Culture

Atomwise is comprised of a world-class team of diverse disciplines internally referred to as "Atoms." In this Atom Spotlight, we sit down for a Q&A session with Mostafa Ahmed, PhD, a member of our Computer-Aided Drug Design (CADD) Modelers Team.

What do you work on at Atomwise?

I am a scientist on the production team at Atomwise. My work involves applying Atomwise's core technology (the AtomNet® algorithm) to various drug discovery projects that cover different disease areas such as Cardiovascular, Oncology, Infectious, Pulmonary, Neurological, and many more.  These projects are in collaboration with various academic labs around the world and major pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly and Hansoh that are in different stages of discovery, such as Hit-identification, Hit-to-lead, and Lead-optimization.

What was your background before Atomwise?

I am a pharmacist by training. While working on my pharmacy degree, I became very interested in how drugs are discovered and/or designed. Therefore, after receiving my pharmacy degree, I decided to pursue graduate studies in Medicinal Chemistry. I received a Fulbright scholarship for pursuing my graduate degree in Medicinal Chemistry. During my graduate studies, I learned different computer-aided drug design (CADD) techniques. I also developed computational tools for protein structure prediction. After receiving my Ph.D., I joined the Institute for Structural Biology, Drug Discovery and Development (ISB3D) in Virginia, where I worked on drug discovery projects related to oncology and sickle cell disease. During my tenure at the ISB3D, I was exposed to various structural biology techniques such as X-ray crystallography and NMR, which complemented my CADD experience. Therefore, when a position opened up at Atomwise, it was a perfect match for my experience and my overall goal of discovering new and exciting therapeutics for tough to target diseases.

You moved to San Francisco from Virginia when you joined, what was that experience like?

Mostafa_BlogAs much as I was excited to move to SF, I was pretty nervous about moving with my family. My biggest concern was to find a nice family-friendly neighborhood. I did not know anyone in the Bay Area. Fortunately, the Atomwise team members were super friendly and helpful in that regard (a big shout out to the Atoms!). I spoke with several team members, many of whom have families. They all gave me excellent recommendations and guidance about the different areas in the Bay. The Bay Area is large and encompassing numerous cities with incredibly varied geographies from oceanfront towns to ones that are on mountains or close to forests. Most of the towns are conveniently connected to San Francisco through at least one mode of transportation, such as ferries, BART, or Caltrain. At work, the Atomwise team was fantastic in helping me adjust to the new city and work environment. Overall, I had a very good experience moving to the gorgeous Bay Area (apart from the moving company not finishing loading our stuff until 2 hours before my flight. That was quite an intense and action-packed experience!). 

What's your favorite aspect of life at Atomwise?

There are several aspects that I like about Atomwise, which makes it hard to pick one. My favorite one is the work environment.  Everything is designed for maximum efficiency and success, such as how the teams are structured and managed as well as small details like how our workstations are set up. The team members are experts in diverse areas such as machine learning, chemistry, cheminformatics, biology, infrastructure, business development, and marketing. Because projects often involve multiple teams, I am continuously learning new things across various domains. Team members are highly encouraged to participate in national and international conferences, attend workshops, and online personal development courses. Different teams are always engaged in exciting and cutting-edge research. At the same time, individual contributions are recognized. I particularly like the flexible work schedule. It better suits my work's nature, which can become intense at times and allows me to take some time off to recharge and come back for more exciting work!

Favorite Atowmise pantry snack?


Chocorooms! I am guilty of depleting our stock of chocorooms at Atomwise (sorry, guys!). Receiving these in my Coronavirus care package helped to remind me of the office during the shelter in place order.



Join our team

Our team is comprised of over 30 PhD scientists who contribute to a high-performance academic-like culture that fosters robust scientific and technical excellence. We strongly believe that data wins over opinions, and aim for as little dogma as possible in our decision making. Learn more about our team and opportunities at Atomwise.