The Starting Line: A Collaborative Start-Up

In 2014, fellow alumna Vanessa Burns, (BS ’11) and I cofounded LumosTech, a start-up based on technology that hacks the body’s master circadian regulator to treat jet lag and other circadian-rhythm disorders.

My experience as a TA at Caltech was part of the inspiration for founding LumosTech. I noticed that the hormonally late-shifted circadian rhythms of my students—people in their teens and early twenties—combined with the night-owl undergraduate culture at Caltech, made early class times suboptimal for learning. As a result, I held my recitation section in the evening and found that my students were much more animated and engaged than at the morning lecture. While college culture is relatively forgiving to late chronotypes, or night owls, the modern workplace is rarely so accommodating, and many people find it difficult to go to bed early enough to get a full seven to eight hours of sleep before they need to wake up for their morning commute to work.

Using millisecond pulses of light, the smart sleep mask we are developing can shift your circadian rhythm while you sleep, using the same neural pathways as natural light in a way that is optimized to your sleep schedule through a companion smartphone app. Collaborating with another Techer has been awesome, and I credit much of our success so far to the close and productive working relationship we have. Our experiences at Caltech significantly shaped our ability to develop and manage an early-stage tech start-up. We built our own prototypes, analyzed the scientific literature, and developed a business plan that we could pitch to investors. Without the skills and perseverance we learned as Caltech students, we would not have been able to overcome the many obstacles facing a start-up.

—Kristin Rule Gleitsman, PhD ’10

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