PhD student Felix Drost shares his experience at Mila, Montreal's machine learning institute

Discover how this exchange impacted his research project, provided hands-on insights, and fostered collaborations.

Felix is a 3rd year PhD student at Schubert’s lab. His thesis focuses on developing machine learning models to predict the T cell receptor-epitope interaction. Early 2023, he went to Mila, Montréal’s machine learning institute and the partner of the Helmholtz International Lab Causal Cell Dynamics (CCD) to Prof. Jian Tang’s lab.

  • How did this Scientific stay impact your PhD project?

This exchange gave me a peek into a more machine learning oriented institute. Besides the great scientific input, I also got to know more hands-on insights on topics like cluster management and coding practices, which I will to apply in my home institute at Helmholtz Munich.

  •  What are the things you like the most about your stay at Mila?

Its the perfect place to play “idea ping-pong” on machine learning related topics. People at Mila are incredibly good at quickly grasping the core of a scientific problem. So you can shoot your project at everyone you meet on the hallways or the coffee kitchen and discuss with them.

  • What will you take back from your Scientific Stay there?

I enjoyed the great program such as industry days, cultural events, and close ties to startups, some of which we could implement at our institute as well. Besides that, I met amazing people, many new friends, collaborators and connections who I want to thank for the great time I had in Montreal.

  • How will the project you started there continue since you're back?

During the three months of my research stay, we were able to set up a model framework as a strong basis for further model improvement. Besides further tweaks to the algorithm, we are currently discussing a detailed analysis and benchmark of the developed model. Depending on the results, I am looking forward to work not only on Receptor-Target prediction, but also on generative models through the expertise and supervision of  Prof. Tang.

  • What would you recommend to other PhD students who want to visit Mila?

 Get in touch with different groups at Mila before your stay. There is more shared interest in biological topics than I initially expected and there will be almost certainly a good fit for a host lab for you. As an example, I discovered during my first meeting with Prof. Tang before the exchange, that he was planning to expand his group in the direction of immune receptors - my PhD topic.

  •  Any final words?

If you visit Montreal in the winter, prepare for the cold ;) - 37° Celsius and ice storms. Pack warm clothes!!!