Alumni Spotlight: Shyno Mathew, from India to Startup
February 8, 2018
Shyno Mathew hails from the first town in all of India to achieve 100% literacy among its residents, so her educational accomplishments were practically a foregone conclusion.
From Kottayam, India, where she grew up; to Drexel University, where she received her BS/MS in chemical engineering and engineering management in 2010; to Columbia University, where she received her PhD in computational engineering in 2017, Mathew has pursued education partly for its own sake. Because it was so highly valued in Kottayam and in her own family, Mathew was determined to exceed the expectations modeled for her. She set out from India nearly 13 years ago and landed on Drexel’s doorstep, having only a few distant cousins and a vague idea of what a co-op was to guide her in a new country. She has not stopped learning since.
That commitment led to Mathew’s latest achievement, the founding with several colleagues of an educational startup, qLogiX Entertainment, which has as one of its instructional components a celebrated, planet-themed game called “BooMEE.” BooMEE was created on the premise that children will fall in love with STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—if they are presented in a playful, appealing context. And its success so far among grade-school children has proven that equation.
“At the end of the day, as a child what you’re exposed to stays with you throughout your life,” said Mathew, who is CEO of the Manhattan-based company. “A lot of kids here in the US may believe that math is super hard and not fun at all. There is such a fear factor. But they love playing our game because it feels to them like they’re defeating the villains, although they are learning a lot of skills – how to add numbers, and how to subtract number combinations, and use statistics to track their progress.”
Mathew recalled one young tutoring client in particular who used to dread math. “This same girl came to the testing with BooMEE. It had even harder math problems than the tutoring, and she was playing actively. I wondered, how is this possible? She looks at a simpler problem on a piece of paper and she won’t do it. But a complex problem with characters and colors in this video game, she does? And I thought, wow, if we can scale it up and expose more kids to this, that would have a huge impact.”
qLogiX Entertainment tackles three issues the founders believe hobble children’s interest in STEM subjects: it eliminates the “social fear” of computing and mathematics, it generates awareness of the utility of STEM concepts in daily life, and it increases access to core subjects across ethnicities, genders, races, and economic situations. The company’s mantra is “play, inspire, and explore.” A percentage of each BooMEE purchase goes toward the purchase of school items for underprivileged children around the world – “earthlings,” as they’re described.
DREXEL’S CO-OP APPEAL
Mathew’s expertise today includes programming, data analyses, high performance computing, and teaching. She acknowledged the uniqueness of Drexel’s education in helping her to get this far.
One of the things that first drew her to Drexel was the promise of co-ops, which simply didn’t exist in India. She arrived in the United States with “zero” work experience on her resume. Her first co-op was with Merck Pharmaceuticals, which helped focus her research in developing cutting-edge drugs. She added that the idea of going from one classroom to another on Drexel’s campus, and especially of using a map to find a lecture hall, was an unusual concept. In India, it is the teachers who circulate from classroom to classroom.
“I remember my second day at Drexel, I must have looked really lost, because another student just literally walked up to me and asked if I needed help, and then walked me to my classroom,” she said. “I feel like the Drexel community was really, really supportive. The community planted so many seeds in my mind that I’m super thankful for. Especially the career services, the co-ops and looking for internships.
“Drexel gave me so many opportunities,” she said, “and the co-ops gave me the entrepreneurial mindset.”
Mathew credits Dr. Cameron Abrams, department head and professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, with inspiring her work in the field of protein simulation, or, looking at how a protein behaves on a molecular level through computer modeling. With Abrams as her advisor, she defended her master’s thesis on the subject of computer simulating proteins.
“I had such a great experience with him. The work I did at Columbia continued what Dr. Abrams inspired me to do at Drexel,” she said.
While at Columbia, Mathew curated a TEDx Columbia Engineering School conference, and worked as a teaching assistant in eight classes. She continues to teach college physics at Touro College in New York City, and has a range of tutoring clients. She is handling the technology for Fitness JOQ, a new, non-profit specializing in health and fitness founded by celebrity wellness expert Chef Jacques Laventure. Mathew also serves as a Drexel Alumni Ambassador.
Shyno’s time these days is largely spent growing qLogiX Entertainment and its interactive educational apps. Mathew wants to expand the range of offerings to include a more holistic approach, including games that encourage healthful nutrition and exercise among its core audience of grade school students.
--By Wendy Plump, Staff Writer, CoE