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“Geek of the Week” Alex Mariakakis sets his sights on long-term impact through mobile health research

Alex Mariakakis in color-calibration glassesPh.D. student Alex Mariakakis, who works with professor Shwetak Patel in the Allen School’s UbiComp Lab, has his eye on the prize in the latest edition of GeekWire’s “Geek of the Week.” Blue Devil-turned-Husky Mariakakis was a slam-dunk for the honor based on his work on mobile health apps that will one day allow anyone, anywhere to be screened for potentially life-threatening medical conditions using a smartphone.

“There are so many reasons why I work at the intersection of health and technology,” Mariakakis told GeekWire. “I like to work on projects that can be explained at a high level for a curious parent or student or at a deeper level for a senior faculty member. I like working on projects that I hope will have a lasting impact on society rather than just sit as a document on a website.”

“And sometimes,” he continued, “I just like to pretend to be a real doctor when I visit collaborators (I got to wear scrubs once!).”

Mariakakis is collaborating with Allen School and UW Medicine researchers on two projects that have the potential for significant impact: BiliScreen, which detects adult jaundice — an early indicator of pancreatic cancer and other serious medical conditions — before it is evident to the naked eye; and PupilScreen, a way to objectively assess athletes and others for traumatic brain injury. Despite the high profile of his research, Mariakakis makes sure to get out of the lab and share his enthusiasm for computer science through K-12 outreach events hosted by the Allen School and the College of Engineering.

“When most people think about computer science, they think about the traditional subfields like systems, architecture, and databases. Without the work they do, so many things wouldn’t be possible, but people should know there is so much more to computer science than just those areas,” Mariakakis said. “I totally understand that not everyone wants to be involved in STEM, but I think it’s important that students at least know what’s out there.”

Read the full article here. Also check out recent Allen School “Geek of the Week” honorees professors Ira Kemelmacher Shlizerman and Shyam Gollakota and Ph.D. alumna Irene Zhang, and 2017 Geek of the Year Ed Lazowska.