As of May 4th 2021

The Pandemic:

I got vaccinated, my family is vaccinated, my friends are vaccinated! Concerned about my extended family in India and had some cases but everyone luckily is healthy now.

Books I’m Reading:

  1. “Black Reconstruction in America” by W.E.B Du Bois.
  2. “The Narrow Corridor” by Darn Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

You can find past books I’ve read and my notes on them in my Notion library here.

Graduate School:

Medical Informatics Ph.D. Program at UCLA

I’m a 2nd year Medical Informatics PhD Student at UCLA in Dr. Alex Bui’s lab. My research centers on the use of digital health data as taken from smartphones and smartwatches to enable monitoring and prevention of mental health disorder. A key focus point for me is ensuring fairness and equitable implenetation of algorithms used.

I recently worked on a project called covidcompare.io with two other students and went live with the website In November. I’ll be conducting a usability study and hopefully publishing results in the coming months. I am now be working on the the analysis of pilot data from a collaboration between UCLA and Apple to study mental health and depression through mobile health. We are looking to use data from the pilot study of ~150 participants to influence design and analysis plan of future larger studies starting that will begin in March and the Fall of this year.

A peer in the MI program (Joseph Friedman) at UCLA and I recently published in the American Journal of Public Health on work related to assessing the impact of the pandemic with the opioid overdose crisis. We are also collaborating on a follow up of that work related to getting accurate estimates of current overdose mortality in the U.S. using publicly available data sources.

Future Plans:

Entrepreneurship

My goal in beginning a Ph.D program was to understand computational approaches in medicine in order to start a company in the field. Recently my goals and ambitions have shifted to where I can meaningfully help vulnerable populations. A company may be part of the solution but I’m not wed to the idea. I will be actively looking for the resources and mentors at UCLA and elsewhere to help ensure I am on the right track. I recently applied to and was offered a position in UCLA’s Biodesign fellowship! The program aligns very well with my own goals and I’m super excited to start this August.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any information or advice. My personal email is samir.akre@gmail.com.

Other Things In My Life

Meditation

I’ve been meditating for a couple years now, and for most of it followed a mantra based meditation practice from AYP which typically involves 2 ~30 minute sessions per day. For the last 6 months I decided to shift to the methods taught in the book The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa. The methods taught in the book feel more well suited to a western audience, it is reminiscent of weight training without entirely discarding eastern knowledge and influence.

Guitar

I’ve played the guitar since I was in middle school, but never felt good. I’m still not good, I don’t know how to “jam” with other players, don’t know music theory. But at least I can solo in a minor pentatonic pretty well. I’ve started to learn more theory and fundamentals and am really enjoying it. Videos from Ben Eller have been very useful.

Fitness

My roommate from the Freshman year dorms, Will Han, has been coaching me for the last 9 months to help me get swole. He’s helped me a ton with understanding the right way to eat, how to look at my fitness goals, and how to workout. Now that I’m vaccinated I’ve been going to 24 hour fitness gym nearby and it is sooo nice to have heavier weights. Recently plateaued on weight loss during this cutting phase so need to up my cardio and lower my calories.