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Member of the month: Ahmed Youssef

Office Club Mitglied des Monats Ahmed Youssef

Ahmed Youssef

Hi Ahmed - member of the month in February!

Introduction round: Who are you and where are you from?
I am an Egyptian scientist. I was born in Cairo, and lived and studied in Paris for ten years. I've been working in Berlin for the past three years.

More precisely, I'm a theoretical physicist, and until very recently I was working on the frontier between Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. This is the fascinating place where you ask weird questions like: are space and time fundamental notions, or are they emerging from something even more fundamental? Cool stuff. I also do research in the relatively new field of complex systems. This area of study includes everything from understanding the mathematics of Darwinian evolution to studying the flow of information in a complicated and dynamical network.

I also work in the fields of statistics and machine learning. I'm sure most of the members have heard about big data. Machine learning is the core algorithmic technology behind it. Basically it is the science of learning from data, that is, extracting meaningful insights from noisy data. If you are able to do this and do it well, you can start making accurate and valuable predictions. The applications are pretty diverse—they range from cancer diagnosis and automated drug discovery to the financial market, energy demand forecasts, and marketing.

Quantum gravity, the mathematics of evolution, and machine learning might seem to be very unrelated subjects to most people. The exciting thing is that the mathematics behind them is actually very similar. This often leads to a lot of confusion when I tell people what I do, though!

What made you come to Berlin?
I came to Berlin because I was offered a great research position at Humboldt University, in the group working under a professor who basically created his own sub-field. It's been three years now, and I love this city—so multicultural and relaxed!

What exactly do you do? What's in the pipeline for the near future?
Two month ago, I decided it was time to start working on a long-time dream: creating my own company to promote computation and mathematical modelling as a means to smarter decision making in businesses.

So I am now the founder of LD-research UG (i.G.). LD stands for large deviations, the mathematical theory of rare and extreme events. Our slogan is “Risk-aware predictions.”

Let me explain: More often than not, rare and extreme events are the most profitable ones but also can potentially be the most damaging. Unfortunately the science behind them is so complex that many statisticians and modellers decide to ignore them, as if "rare" meant "nonexistent." But it turns out that nothing is farther from the truth.

Because of this, our service does not focus solely on predictive analytics. A fundamental part of our offering is risk estimation and how to design decision making processes that are robust to uncertainty. Our role is to import cutting edge research in these fields and apply it to concrete business problems. In the future, we also plan to conduct our own research, in collaboration with academia.[nbsp]

While I want to maintain the strong culture of research and innovation that you see in academia, I'm also finding that wearing the entrepreneur hat is very exciting and new to me.

Since when do you cowork at Office Club?
I have been working from Office Club Berlin Prenzlauer Berg on an irregular basis for almost a year now, but I've only been a full member for two months.

What is the benefit of using a coworking space for you?
As a self-employed person, this is probably the best setting I can think of. It gives me the feeling that I still work in a big office. The opportunity to meet people in a similar situation is also great. Since I have been coming more regularly over the past month, I've met really interesting and nice people. One more thing: you guys did a great job[nbsp] making the place cozy—I just love being here.

Which questions / problems could you help your coworking neighbour with?
If you are working with data and suspect there might be some hidden insights in it, I would be happy to discuss it with you. I can help you figure out whether you can expect to find these insights, how to go about it, and how to translate your insights into something actionable.

Do you have favorite spots in Berlin? Something to recommend / consider especially for people coming here?
OK—let’s begin with food: one of best burgers I've ever had was at the Bird here in Prenzlauerberg. If you're not a vegetarian, you've got to try it. Also, if you want to take a few days to relax and de-stress, I can recommend Spreewald, especially during the summer. It's only an hour from Berlin by train and there are a number of spas where you can stay.

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Thanks a lot and all the best for you and your projects!

 

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