As an enterprising Rutgers University Chemistry undergraduate student, Kevin Theisen launched iChemLabs in 2008 with seed money from a generous donor who specifically wanted to help entrepreneurs start new companies.
The Somerset resident has come a long way from the days spent sitting in his dorm room dreaming of an affordable student-friendly software package that would allow users to draw chemical structures and predict their spectra. Now on its seventh version, Theisen’s ChemDoodle software has broad appeal to a large community that requires visualization of molecules and has resulted in a company with employees and partnerships spread across the globe. iChemLabs is a developer of chemical software for students and professionals; the company provides its software to some educational institutions, including Rutgers, for free.
“While I was at Rutgers I decided to create a fully functional two- and three-dimensional software for investigating chemistry and drawing chemical structures because the alternative on the marketplace at that time would have cost $4,000,” said Theisen, 28. “My parents both had computer software backgrounds and I had also been interested in software development in addition to my passion for chemistry, so I spent the summer before my senior year creating ChemDoodle. I was set to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley, but after creating the software I realized where I wanted to be and iChemLabs was born.”
Theisen, a former Henry Rutgers Scholar and president of the Rutgers Chemistry Society, has stayed active at the university, funding an annual computation award for students and providing iChemLabs web components for an important chemistry e-learning initiative. He hopes to use his experience to help foster interest in chemical programming and encourage students to engage with chemistry in new ways.
“Kevin is a great success story and will have a substantial impact on education in chemistry for years to come,” said Chemistry Professor Roger A. Jones, a former chairman of the department and one of Theisen’s mentors. “He was in the right place at the right time, and received several thousand dollars of ‘lab-to-marketplace’ seed funding, a program initiated and supported by Rutgers alumnus Ybet Villacorta. Clearly, those have been dollars well spent.”
Theisen said the field of chemistry can be one of the harder areas to find your niche, but credits the Rutgers faculty with encouraging him to explore his interests.
“A career in chemistry is not necessarily a life spent in the lab,” Theisen said. “When we think of chemistry, most people think about huge laboratories and beakers with liquid in them, but the fact is there are many ways to engage chemistry beyond this stereotype.” Villacorta is an intellectual property lawyer, yet another non-traditional, but very rewarding path for those with chemistry backgrounds.
As a sophomore at Rutgers, Theisen first started to experiment with computer programming to check the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) homework assigned in his organic chemistry class. “I wanted to sit in my dorm room and check my work by looking at molecules and knowing what their spectra should be without spending a million dollars on an NMR spectrometer so I created a program that would let me achieve the task,” he said.
Over several years, Theisen utilized his interest in computer programming to create ChemDoodle.
“For students, who are not sure how they fit in the chemistry world it’s important to keep their interests top of mind,” he said. “Rutgers has proven time and time again that their faculty include many excellent chemists who not only do great chemistry, but also care immensely about students. I want to see Rutgers students get the same opportunities I received to pursue their interests and achieve their dreams.”
About iChemLabs LLC:
iChemLabs, LLC. is a scientific software company specializing in all forms of computational chemistry including NMR simulation, chemical visualization, and chemical informatics. iChemLabs provides expertise in desktop, mobile and web based technologies for both consulting and custom development. For more information, please visit www.iChemLabs.com.
Yankee Public Relations