Komal Dadlani is on a Mission to Make Science Fun and Accessible with Lab4U

Lab4U makes science fun and accessible by transforming mobile devices into science labs!

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Komal Dadlani is on a mission to make science fun and accessible for young people. Her company Lab4U is democratizing and changing the way science is taught, by transforming mobile devices into scientific instruments to improve the experience of science education.

What inspired you to create Lab4U?

The idea was born while struggling with science education ourselves and the need for development of low-cost lab equipment for science education. In my university, I met Alvaro Peralta, a creative, software engineer who believed in the dream and knew how to make it happen. Together, we came up with the idea of using built-in mobile sensors as science instruments.

What motivates us the most is the ability to solve a real problem. Today we know for a fact, that science education is expensive. It requires lab infrastructure that most schools do not have. In Latin America 88% of schools lack science labs, teachers don’t have tools to teach and students are ending up with a low-scientific literacy. In the United States, STEM education suffers from students that are not engaged as well as a severe, long-term shortage of qualified physics teachers. In fact, in 2013, the National Task Force on Teacher Education reported that “the need for qualified physics teachers is greater now than at any previous time in U.S. history.” Having a multi-factor problem, science equipment being expensive, teachers needing help and students not engaging in science, how can we improve science education and prepare the future workforce in STEM? In the past 5 years, Lab4U has worked in Latin America and the US in pursuit of democratizing science and changing the way science is taught by transforming smartphones and tablets into complete science labs. Lab4U leverages the built-in features of smartphones and tablets such as sensors (accelerometers, magnetometers, GPS, and camera) to design experiments aligned to different curriculums.Today, Lab4Physics has more than 120,000 students on its platform. If we give every student the opportunity to have a lab in their pockets, the next Einstein or Marie Curie can be anywhere in the world.

What does being a Latina in tech (#LatinaGeek) mean to you?

I am a #proud #LatinaGeek. If we don’t try to solve our world’s problems, who will?

What are the biggest challenges you’ve overcome to date in your entrepreneurial journey?

Building the right team where our visions are aligned. Tackling the sales cycle in the ed-tech ecosystem. Dealing with governments who need to learn the importance of ed-tech and science education. Leaving behind the traditional way of doing things, and the fact that changing the status quo in education takes time, energy, funding and effort.

What is some advice you would give to other women to overcome these obstacles?

Know your business up-side down, be an expert in your business and you will be able to follow your instinct in order to grow. Work hard to build a great team with a great culture you believe in.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way?

I’ve learnt to have patience and courage, things take longer than what you expect. Meditation helps a lot.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

To trust my gut a lot more, when something feels wrong, it’s probably wrong.

What’s the strongest skill female entrepreneurs need to nurture to thrive?

Believing in themselves. There is always room for improvement, but if you trust in your potential and talent, the sky is the limit.

Our product Lab4Physics highlights girls throughout, showing girls carrying out different experiments, like a girl lifting weights in the Force and Energy experiments or a brown girl on a skateboard in the Movement experiments. We believe we can empower girls with role models that show them that they can be a physicists or scientist or engineer.

Who is your hero and why?

Professor Pablo Valenzuela, my first angel investor. He built a product and business from 0. He is known for his genetic studies of hepatitis viruses; participated as R&D Director in the discovery of hepatitis C virus and the invention of the world’s first recombinant vaccine (against hepatitis B virus). He is one of the cofounders of the biotechnology company Chiron Corporation, which was acquired by Novartis.

For the world he is a genius, for me he is a great human being. Great part of Lab4U’s success is thanks to him. He was one of the first ones to believe in us.

Can you share a life-changing / shifting moment that got you to where you are today?

I was born in a middle class immigrant family who originally came from India and settled in Chile, where they struggled to succeed in a foreign country. Chile is a country where Spanish is the main language and Indian expats were not and are not popular. We were immigrants in a faraway land known for its wine, dessert and beautiful Patagonia. My parents did not speak Spanish, and English was not their first language, but they made sure I would insert myself in the Chilean culture and learn Spanish and English. Though I was bullied at school, I was able to be a good Chilean student. One important life-changing moment was being a proud Chilean entering the Universidad de Chile to study science, regardless of the bullying I was able to graduate from school with awards and distinctions.

And the second life-changing moment was during my University years. I almost failed chemistry the first year, but I studied hard and passed. It’s amazing the impact a good teacher can have in your life. The second year was fun at first, taking courses such as Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and some electives like Modern Physics and Particle Physics which truly blew my mind. However, we didn’t do much of experimenting, being one of the top universities in Chile, I was surprised there weren’t many labs, most of them were old, and there wasn’t even enough equipment for that many students. University was hard and exciting, but what changed my life and my family’s life from one day to another was the terminal cancer diagnosis of my mother, where a 4th degree brain tumor would not allow her to live in the next weeks to months. Against all odds and diagnosis, she fought her cancer for 5 years and passed away in 2013, the year I started Lab4U and asked myself…  Why aren’t there enough scientists solving the world’s biggest challenges like Cancer or Climate Change?

What are you looking for help with today? How can we help you achieve what you want?

We are looking for more high schools and colleges that would like to implement Lab4U’s technologies to change the way science is taught with a Lab in the pocket!