Interview with Unique.vc’s CTO Uroš Šošević, PhD
Uroš Šošević, our Chief Technology Officer has recently obtained a Doctoral Degree from the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, University of Belgrade. After being a teaching assistant at the aforementioned University, pursuing a PhD and deepening his knowledge was a logical next step.
We’re proud to have Uroš on our team and wanted to share his experience with our community. Get ready to be inspired!
M: Hey Uroš! Congratulations on your PhD and thank you for taking the time to share your story with our community!
U: Thank you! Of course, I love sharing knowledge and hope my story will be inspiring to someone.
M: Before we jump into your PhD journey, could you tell us a little bit more about your teaching experience before pursuing the Doctoral Degree?
U: Yes sure! So I started working at the Faculty of Organizational Sciences in 2008 while I was still a student. I was actually volunteering as an associate in the Laboratory for multimedia communications, helping with the research work and my interest and ambition were recognized. I was then assigned to a project within the Department of Information Technologies so I started working on it and going deeper into the academic sphere while I was still a student. The name of the project was Multimodal Biometrics in Identity Management, which was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development in Serbia. The main focus was on biometrics and biometric technologies.
M: For how long did the project last?
U: It was active for six or seven years, I think. So we had enough time to not only scratch the surface and cover the basics, but to actually research some more advanced things.
This was the first research project I was engaged in and I would say it was quite an exciting experience. The interesting part was that other departments were also included in the research so we were able to approach the problem in a multidisciplinary way. I had the opportunity to learn from my professors and department colleagues, but also from members of other departments who were experts in some other fields, like psychology, statistics…
M: That’s very interesting! So how did your story further evolve?
U: So during that time, I got my bachelor’s degree in Information Systems and Technology and later on a master’s degree in Information Technology. Both my bachelor’s and master’s thesis were focused on biometrics as I was so involved in the topic. I eventually started working as a teaching associate and then later on as a teaching assistant at the Department of Information Technologies and was still engaged in the project. What is interesting is that the main lead of the project I started working on still as a student, prof. emeritus Dušan Starčević, happened to be my PhD mentor later on.
M: Could you share with us what courses you were lecturing?
U: As part of the Department of Information Technology, I was lecturing, and still lecture, many compulsory and elective courses under that Department. This includes Computer Networking and Telecommunication, Multimedia, Mobile Computing, Distributed Systems, User Interface Design, and Multimedia Production. Even though some of these courses are elective, a large percentage of students enroll in them as they are quite interesting and practical.
M: That’s a lot of courses! So would you say pursuing a PhD degree was a logical next step for you?
U: Well yeah. Generally speaking, if you want to stay teaching at a university, you need a PhD degree, but I was also interested to continue my research on biometric technologies that I started while I was still a student.
M: So your PhD also focused on biometric technologies?
U: Yes, exactly. My PhD was kind of a crown on everything I was working on at the Faculty. The name of the thesis was Software Framework for Multimodal Biometric Systems Development. What I was actually working on was a complete methodological approach to developing multimodal biometric systems. So I was kind of designing a framework that could be used by other developers and biometric engineers, or even IT and biometric students in their work. The idea was to utilize already available open-source and free tools, or components, and basically include them in that framework in order to create a complete multimodal biometric system.
M: That’s really fascinating! But wait, is that anyhow connected to what you do in Unique.vc or with blockchain all?
U: Actually, the biometric part, not at all. It doesn’t have anything to do with that, but the concepts that I was researching during my PhD research and the software framework I was designing, are actually the same concepts we are using in the development of Unique.vc and on the Solana blockchain in general. We’re facing the same issues that I was trying to solve within my research. Those are the issues everyone is trying to address from a different perspective. This includes interoperability and interconnectivity, as well as the composability and reusability of existing smart contracts and programs. And those are some really important issues to be solved because it is very time-consuming to be building something from scratch each and every time you want to develop something. It also costs a lot! The idea was to see how we can utilize what has already been built and to actually compose those things and make them work as one within that complete final product. So in that manner, I think my PhD research and my work in Unique.vc are similar.
M: So how long did it take you to accomplish all of this? Were there many difficulties on the road?
U: Yeah, well, it took a lot of time. If I had only focused on the PhD research, I would have finished it a long time ago, but as usual, life happens. I was also engaging in other projects and in Unique.vc so I only got my PhD recently. But I think in the end it took just as much time as was needed. The other projects I was engaging in also taught me things which enhanced my ability to perform my PhD research . All in all, I’ve been involved in examining this topic basically from the start of my engagement at the University back in 2011. And during these 11 years, we’ve advanced so much in the field that now that I look back at our beginnings, I realize we’ve only scratched the surface because there is much more to be discovered.
M: Well, would you have any piece of advice for anyone who’s trying to pursue a similar path?
U: If you’re passionate about something, and if you see potential in the idea that you have, focus on it and try to approach it from different perspectives. You just need to be persistent, and you will see the fruits of your hard work. Hard work always pays off! What this PhD journey has taught me is that you can accomplish whatever you want in life. You just need to believe in yourself. Every effort you put into something will in the end be worth it. No matter what we’re talking about. Be it a project, a personal goal, or an academic one. It’s always worth it in the end.
M: So what’s next for you in academia? Will you take a well-deserved rest now for a little bit now?
U: One thing is for sure, no rest. I’m always trying to balance private and professional life so that I don’t need to take a break from either of the two, but also, there’s so much more to be discovered. I remember what my mentor used to say that with all our research we’re just covering the tip of the iceberg. We won’t get any Nobel Prize for what we do, but what we will have accomplished is a small contribution to the whole system on top of which other researchers can build their research. And this is still significant and good enough to motivate us all to keep researching. So, yeah, at this point, let’s say, I did a lot throughout my PhD and I will continue to research that field with my students, but I also want to focus on applying that knowledge on Unique.vc’s platform together with my Dev team.
M: Do you also approach your Dev team members as students at the Faculty?
U: Well, yes and no. I think we have a great team in Unique.vc and some of the team members have also studied at the Faculty of Organizational Sciences. And I do share my knowledge with them of course, but I try to treat them as equals to me, because I can also learn a lot from them. Everyone has their own area of interest and expertise and we really work as a team. I would say we’re not only hacking, but are actually trying to understand the issues we face as part of a broader picture within the software or ecosystem. We’re also always trying to anticipate problems we might face if we choose one approach over the other. So it’s a continuous learning process. And everything I learn through my practical work out of the University, I try to share with my students there. So it works in both directions.
M: Thank you Uroš for sharing all of that with us! Do you wanna share any final thoughts with our readers?
U: Thank you for the interview. I love talking about science and hope someone will find this story inspiring. In science, and in blockchain, we all have the same goal, to contribute to the system so we can eventually benefit from it altogether. And this is the spirit we have in Unique. I think our teams have been doing an amazing job and that’s actually one of the most valuable assets that Unique has — the team. I must say, without the team, you don’t have anything. I think we are doing things in the right way here and well, time and the market will tell if that’s true.