UATX Program Alumni Are Making Science Modeling as Easy as Chat-GPT
Student Stories
Jul 10, 2024

UATX Program Alumni Are Making Science Modeling as Easy as Chat-GPT

“Our focus is on creating tools that scientists will find indispensable,” says Rowan co-founder Corin Wagen.

Maggie Kelly
Maggie Kelly
University of Austin

Corin Wagen, a chemist and a 2023 alumnus of the University of Austin Polaris Fellowship program, and his brother, Ari, an alumnus of UATX's Forbidden Courses, think scientific innovators deserve better software. The two brothers cofounded Rowan, a startup company dedicated to providing scientists with computational tools they can easily put to use.

Says Corin: "Both UATX and Rowan are motivated by the limitations of today's university system: UATX aims to refocus education around the fearless pursuit of truth, while at Rowan we're building a new scientific institution focused on enabling chemical innovation for real users, not publishing papers or writing grants. I'm very glad to have been a part of the inaugural Polaris Fellowship cohort; the incredible community brought together by UATX has been a great resource thus far, and I'm excited to work with future UATX students and faculty as they continue building out their curriculum and platform."

The following post by the Wagen brothers originally appeared on Rowan's Substack newsletter:

Here’s an unfortunate truth: when it comes to software, science is decades behind other fields. Right now, it’s possible to download a dozen fast, simple, and easy-to-use gambling, gaming, or dating apps, but designing life-saving drugs requires the use of frustrating programs that would have felt dated in the mid-2000s. 
We’re starting Rowan because we think that scientific software shouldn’t be hard to use. Using software for your research shouldn’t take years of training or arcane command-line skills; it should be as easy as Venmo or ChatGPT. Chemists should be limited only by their ideas, not by hacked-together computational workflows.
Computing is changing the world; even the most physical of occupations—mining, manufacturing, transportation—now rely on dedicated software tools to function efficiently. This is no less true in science. 
Making computation accessible to more researchers will increase scientific productivity, but this can’t happen without high-quality software tools.
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers, for example,, didn’t just appear in the basement of every university. It took a sustained effort to take a scientific discovery—NMR—and turn it into a product that scientists could use for their research. Without a lot of applied science and engineering, the basic science behind NMR would have remained purely of intellectual interest.
We love building new tools, but looking around, we don’t see many other people doing this work. Most chemists work in academia, which is poorly structured for building polished software products, or in large companies with a different focus. A new approach is necessary.
Rowan, a for-profit company, is dedicated to building modern software tools for chemistry that serve the needs of real researchers. Our focus is not on the impact of our publications or the novelty of our ideas, but on creating tools that scientists will find indispensable. If we can deliver value to our users, that’s all that matters to us.
We’re not building some massive proprietary platform that promises solutions that sound too good to be true. Instead, we believe that by solving real issues for real users as quickly as possible, we’ll be able to locate the most interesting unsolved problems and build impactful solutions.
We’re coding as fast as we can, and we’re hoping to share something big by the end of summer or early fall. 
In the meantime, if you’re excited by what we’re doing or there’s a problem that you’d like us to work on, email us. 

About the University of Austin Polaris Fellowship:

The UATX Polaris Fellowship is a part-time, year-long program focused on cultivating principled leadership.

Polaris Fellows study the interaction between law, markets, and institutions through contemporary and classic texts, acquire fundamental leadership and managerial skills, and meet with leading-edge public and private entrepreneurs, among others.

The inaugural fellowship attracted a highly competitive applicant pool, with a 9.8% acceptance rate. Successful applicants demonstrated the promise and drive to develop an idea for a public or private startup.

About the University of Austin Forbidden Courses:

The UATX Forbidden Courses summer program gathers curious minds from around the world to cultivate the habits of civil discourse. Via small discussion-based seminars, lectures, and social activities, students join courageous academics and leaders to explore the great questions of our time.

Applications to both programs are currently closed.

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