Crossing the hidden bridge

Alumni perspectives with Ellie Ardakani (’16 PhD).

Ellie Ardakani - 08 July 2021

Ellie Ardakani—pictured here in Ottawa—shares her perspectives on education and entrepreneurship.

Ellie Ardakani (’16 PhD) shares her perspectives on education and entrepreneurship. Photo credit: John Ulan


There is a hidden bridge between being a scientist and a scientist entrepreneur. As scientists we are led by curiosity; we invent and experiment to advance knowledge for the greater good. With a snowball effect of millions of scientists establishing scientific ground-truths and improving upon them, we move forward as a global society to build a better future for us, and for generations to come. Finding this hidden bridge and crossing it opens doors to a world with endless possibilities. This is where the scientist inside us transforms invention into business.

My journey to foundingMeta, a technology company offering software products in scientific simulation-based training and AI-augmented data analytics, started with searching for, finding, and crossing this hidden bridge. To make the passage, I armed myself with the traits and skills I gained during different stages of my life. I combined the emotional intelligence developed in my childhood with the hulkish grit and agility of an immigrant and topped it with endless humility, clear vision, and scientific knowledge gained over the course of my academic tenure and industry experience.

Looking back on my PhD at U of A, beyond expanding my knowledge on exploration geophysics, I realize what I truly achieved was a unique ability to see the bigger picture. The ability to zoom out and explore how different pieces of scientific information can come together to derive meaningful results; to envision and navigate efforts toward achieving a scientific breakthrough. 

My supervisor and mentor, Doug Schmitt, whom I admire indefinitely, is one of the main influences in my personal and professional growth. For years I watched his relentless drive for scientific experimentation and his non-stop willingness to step into the unknown. He pushed scientific boundaries at every opportunity and encouraged me to do the same. As I was expanding my skills and making Canada my second home, Doug patiently and diligently nudged me toward the right path without enforcing his opinions. He taught me how to be humble enough to keep learning and be open minded about potential solutions to difficult problems.

As I forge my path as a scientist, an entrepreneur, an immigrant, and a woman of colour, I am grateful for the experience I had at U of A. It is my commitment to pay it forward by mentoring and inspiring others, in particular women in STEM, to find this hidden bridge.

Ellie Ardakani is the cofounder and CEO ofMeta Innovation Technologies, a leading technology company providing software solutions for training and AI-augmented analytics to energy and mining industries and educational institutions.