Eigenvector Turns 25

Jan 1, 2020

Eigenvector Research, Inc. was founded on January 1, 1995 by myself and Neal B. Gallagher, so we’re now 25 years old. On this occasion I feel that I should write something though I’m at a bit of loss with regards to coming up with a significantly profound message. In the paragraphs below I’ve written a bit of history (likely overly long). 

PLS_Toolbox Floppy Disks 1994-1997

We started Eigenvector with each of us buying a Power Mac 8100 with keyboard, mouse and monitor. These were about $4k, plus another $1700 to upgrade the 8Mb RAM it came with to 32Mb. Liz Callanan at The MathWorks gave us our first MATLAB licenses-thanks! PLS_Toolbox was in version 1.4 and still being marketed under Eigenvector Technologies. Our founding principle was and still is:

Life is too short to drink bad beer, do boring work or live in a crappy place. 

That’s a bit tongue-in-cheek but it’s basically true. We certainly started Eigenvector to keep ourselves in interesting work. For me that meant continuing with chemometrics, data analysis in chemistry. New data sets are like Christmas presents, you never know what you’ll find inside. For Neal I think it meant anything you could do that let you use math on a daily basis. Having both grown up in rural environments and being outdoor enthusiasts location was important. And the bit about beer is just, well, duh!

As software developers we found it both interesting and challenging to make tools that allowed users (and ourselves!) to build successful models for calibration, classification, MSPC etc. As consultants we found a steady stream of projects which required both use of existing chemometric methods and adaptation of new ones. As we became more experienced we learned a great deal about what can make models go bad: instrument drift, differences between instruments, variable and unforeseen background interferents, etc. and often found ourselves as the sanity check to overly optimistic instrument and method developers. Determining what conclusions are supportable given the available data remains an important function for us. 

Our original plan included only software and consulting projects but we soon found out that there was a market for training. (This seems obvious in retrospect.) We started teaching in-house courses when Pat Wiegand asked us to do one at Union Carbide in 1996. A string of those followed and soon we were doing workshops at conferences. And then another of our principles kicked in:

Let’s do something, even if it’s wrong

Neal Teaching Regression at EigenU

Entrepreneurs know this one well. You can never be sure that any investment you make in time or dollars is actually going to work. You just have to try it and see. So we branched out into doing courses at open sites with the first at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1998, thanks for the help Ali Çinar! Open courses at other sites followed. Eigenvector University debuted at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle in 2006. We’re planning the 15th Annual EigenU for this spring. The 10th Annual EigenU Europe will be in France in October and our third Basic Chemometrics PLUS in Tokyo in February. I’ve long ago lost count of the number of courses we’ve presented but it has to be well north of 200. 

Our first technical staff member, Jeremy M. Shaver, joined us in 2001 and guided our software development for over 14 years. Our collaborations with Rasmus Bro started the next year in 2002 and continue today. Initially focused on multi-way methods, Rasmus has had a major impact on our software from numerical underpinnings to usability. Our Chemometrics without Equations collaboration with Donald Dahlberg started in 2002 and has been taught at EAS for 18 consecutive years now. 

We’ve had tremendously good fortune to work with talented and dedicated scientists and engineers. This includes our current technical staff (in order of seniority) R. Scott Koch, Robert T. “Bob” Roginski, Donal O’Sullivan, Manny Palacios and Lyle Lawrence. We wouldn’t trade you EigenGuys for anybody! Also past staff members of note including Charles E. “Chuck” Miller, Randy Bishop and Willem Windig

So what’s next? The short answer: more of the same! It’s both a blessing and a curse that the list of additions and improvements that we’d like to make to our software is never ending. We’ll work on that while we continue to provide the outstanding level of support our users have come to expect. Our training efforts will continue with our live courses but we also plan more training via webinar and in other venues. And of course we’re still doing consulting work and look forward to new and interesting projects in 2020.

In closing, we’d like to thank all the great people that we’ve worked with these 25 years. This includes our staff members past and present, our consulting clients, academic colleagues, technology partners, short course students and especially the many thousands of users of our PLS_Toolbox software, its Solo derivatives and add-ons. We’ve had a blast and we look forward to continuing to serve our clients in the new decade!

Happy New Year!

BMW