This NVIDIA Scientist and Engineer Techs Medicine to the Next Level

by Haley Hirai

As an undergrad studying microbiology at the University of Georgia, Camir Ricketts was torn about his career path: he always had a passion for science and medicine, but he was growing increasingly interested in technology and engineering.

“Why is this a dilemma?” one of his professors asked him. “This just sounds like bioinformatics.”

Ricketts never knew that his two seemingly disparate interests could merge into a dream job. Driven by his passion for learning and desire to help people through medicine, he joined NVIDIA in 2021 after graduating from Weill Cornell Medicine at Cornell University with a doctorate in computational biology and medicine.

His first tasks on the job involved working on NVIDIA Parabricks, a suite of accelerated genomics tools, where he made full use of his bioinformatics background. Later, with the support of his team, the ever-curious Ricketts jumped at the chance to participate in a deep learning rotation. That project eventually became one of the core features of NVIDIA BioNeMo, a generative AI platform for drug discovery.

In his current role as a BioNeMo research scientist, Ricketts develops large language models across cheminformatics, proteins and genomics — the area in which he has the greatest interest.

“Our work enables research, pharma and biotech to be more efficient and better predict small molecules and protein structure,” Ricketts said. “If we can use deep learning to make the process more efficient and accurate, we can go from problem to cure much faster.”

Before joining NVIDIA, Ricketts viewed himself as a scientist, so his current work as an engineer has caused a shift in identity — one that he’s learning to embrace.

“At NVIDIA, my role is hybrid — I get to be a scientist; I discover, explore, run experiments and push for invention,” he said. “I also get to be an engineer and turn the experiments into real products that will have real impact today. It’s such a privilege to be able to do both.”

Ricketts’ desire to help people extends beyond the medical realm. Originally from Jamaica, Ricketts came to the U.S. in 2011 to attend the University of Georgia, where he was awarded the school’s top academic scholarship, the Foundation Fellowship.

Led by a passion to give back to his home country, he started a nonprofit in 2019 called MindsOf Initiative, which aims to broaden access to mentorship for Caribbean students. More than 300 students have participated in the mentorship program, including 60 who have taken a bioinformatics training program led by Ricketts.

“Having people invest in your success can change your life for the better,” he said.

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