Creating a Partnership with a Former Mentor

After graduating from Illinois Tech, Mike McCourt earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University, which included some research back in Chicago at Argonne National Laboratory. He then spent two years in a joint postdoc between Colorado University-Denver and China Agricultural University. During this time, he co-wrote a textbook with former applied math professor Gregory Fasshauer. McCourt moved to San Francisco in 2015 to become the first employee at SigOpt, an AI-powered startup. At SigOpt, McCourt published research and developed products involving kernel methods and Bayesian optimization. Intel acquired SigOpt in late 2020. He now serves as the head of engineering for the SigOpt team within Intel.

He recently teamed with a former professor of his, Professor of Applied Mathematics Fred Hickernell, and a current student to develop an open-source library of Quasi-Monte Carlo software, QMCPy.

“One of the disadvantages of being at a venture capital-funded startup is the lack of time available to work on projects that are not immediately business related,” McCourt says. “In turn, however, one of the advantages is that you have access to funds and the authority to allocate them. In this particular case, Dr. Hickernell and I agreed that SigOpt could provide some amount of funding for this project, to support an undergraduate student during the development process.”