Dr Torsten Reil

Torsten completed his degree in Biological Sciences with us in 1998, and went on to found NaturalMotion, where he was CEO. Now in investment, Torsten speaks to us about his time at Oxford and subsequent career path.

Why did you choose biology at Oxford?

I read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins whilst in the army in Germany, and decided to apply to Oxford (even though I hadn't done biology at school).

What did you enjoy most about your degree?

The tutorial system and being encouraged to think for yourself. I also loved working directly with the latest research papers, instead of just relying on text books. I was able to bring computer simulations into my tutorials and brainstorm crazy ideas. And I had a great moral tutor in Professor Jane Langdale, who was there for me in various high-pressure situations.

What was your final project on?

Genetics of maize.

What skill sets did you gain during your degree that have equipped you for where you are today?

Thinking for yourself, structuring thoughts and text, writing fast. 

What did you do after Oxford?

I did a Masters in Artificial Intelligence at Sussex, then came back to Oxford for a DPhil in "Complexity in Biological Systems". Based on that research, I founded NaturalMotion, a technology and games company, which we sold to Zynga in 2014. I finally left in 2017.

What do you currently do?

I invest in start-ups with a focus on AI, and also sit on the board of two companies (FiveAI and Oxford Nanoimaging). 

What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply for biology at Oxford?

Don't be too daunted by the interview process. I stumbled through the whole thing very naively (and ignorant about anything other than Dawkins' books), but I ended up being quite relaxed, and that helped a lot.

Get in touch with Torsten: @torstenreil