Our advanced technologies team is tasked with a mission that’s both challenging and fun: keeping Luminex at the cutting edge by figuring out what will be needed in the coming years and developing technology solutions to meet those needs. Physicist Martin Kochanczyk, Senior Manager of Technology Development, is one of the team members responsible for ensuring that we’re building the tools that will be most useful to our customers. He joined the company in 2012, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.
Q: What are your responsibilities at Luminex?
A: I’m in the Advanced Technologies Group, which has three core missions. First, we enhance existing products to bring added value to our customers, or to expand into new markets with novel features. Second, we invent new technology, such as next-generation solutions that fit Luminex’s strategic goals. Lastly, we support technology scouting activities by performing technology assessments. My role in the group has a management component, a project lead component, and an individual contributor component. As a project leader, I interface with other development teams across Luminex, including marketing teams, to ensure that product requirements and customer needs are being met at the earliest stages of technology development.
Q: How did you wind up on this path?
A: People tend to go into physics because they’re looking for opportunities to answer fundamental questions about the world. Biophysics is one of the newest places to apply physics, and that really interested me—approaching the basic building blocks of life from the standpoint of physics. The biotechnology field enables me to utilize my background in a way that can be productive for society, yet still allows me to do science.
Q: What did you do before this job?
A: I came to Luminex right out of grad school.
Q: What drew you to Luminex?
A: Luminex is prominent and very well-respected; it’s the biggest biotech company in Austin. But what really got me excited was the advanced technologies group. There aren’t a lot of companies that dedicate a team of scientists and engineers to solving problems that are far out in the future. The development timelines for biotechnology applications are long. You really need a group that’s thinking five years or more down the road.
Q: If you weren’t a technology development manager at Luminex, where would you be?
A: I’d probably be a freelance travel writer. I’m interested in experiencing other cultures, especially ones linked to historical places. In southeast Asia and Central America, there are pockets of people with ties to historic civilizations; it would be fascinating to try to understand how that affects the way they live today.
Q: If you could solve any clinical or genetic challenge, what would it be?
A: We’re understanding more and more about how the microbiome affects our world—from our emotions and psychological state to our physical state—but it’s hard to study this because everybody’s microbiome is different, and it’s difficult to measure it in different parts of the body. We need to develop new technology solutions to study how the microbiome affects our physiological state, and to draw conclusions about lifestyle and diet. This is a new frontier of medicine, and it’s a major opportunity for biotechnology to make a difference.
Q: What is something about you that no one at Luminex knows?
A: When I was finishing my undergraduate studies at Purdue, I led an undergraduate group of physicists who applied for the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program run by NASA. We submitted a proposal that entailed running an experiment on the “vomit comet,” which simulates a zero-gravity environment by flying up and down in parabolic arcs, over and over. The project was accepted and we spent a year developing the experimental setup. We went down to Ellington Field to run the experiment—flying on the vomit comet and experiencing weightlessness. Our experiment used two-dimensional model soil to try to understand how capillary forces affect water distribution in soil, which will be important for prolonged space flights where people need to grow food in zero gravity.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in Austin on the weekend?
A: Before I had kids, I did a lot of running and cycling—getting out on the trails in the downtown area or riding out in the surrounding rural areas. Now, I spend most of my time chasing my kids.