Getting to Know Topl: James Aman, CTO

Paige Nicolaou
Sep 14, 2018 · 6 min read

My name is Jim Aman, I am the Chief Technical Officer for Topl and am currently a seventh year graduate student wrapping up my PhD in experimental atomic physics at Rice University under the direction of Dr. Thomas Killian. My research at Rice has focused on exploring the creation and manipulation of strontium halo molecules specifically for use in probing the regime of universality accessible by such weakly bound molecules.

I was born in Houston, TX but moved shortly thereafter to southern Louisiana where I spent the majority of my youth. I grew up surrounded by a big Acadian family which ingrained a great love of Cajun food in my life. As a kid, I loved exploring and building things and I think a lot of that same mentality drives me today.

For the last 6 years, I have lived with a giant great pyrenees pup named Bec (named after Bose-Einstein Condensates because he is so chill) who loves to meet people and spends most days lounging about and sleeping on various pieces of furniture.

Professionally, I have maintained a somewhat dual track between physics and IT technology. Though I am not a software developer, I have learned the major paradigms of coding through my needs in writing scientific code. While in undergrad, I double majored in Physics and Chemical Physics and also worked at the university IT helpdesk where I first began to learn about computers and was exposed to enterprise systems management and computer networking among other things. After graduating, I was able to use my experience from the HelpDesk to land a job as a database administrator and jack-of-all-trades IT guru for St. Pius X High School (where I learned masterful Google-fu). While my primary job was database management, my youthful exuberance led me to spearhead several projects around the school which really let me explore different layers of computing and network infrastructure but ultimately I returned to graduate school to pursue physics after one year at SPX.

Outside of various academic and professional pursuits, I have always enjoyed physical activity and competition. Before college, I played tuba and enjoyed marching band. In undergrad, I joined the Rice rugby team and rowed crew where I found a deep love for erging. While working at St. Pius, I coached the men’s rugby team. In graduate school, I joined the cycling and triathlon team and dove head first into road and criterium racing as well as testing my limits by competing triathlons.

Getting Started with Blockchain

I found out about Topl through sheer dumb luck and circumstance. I knew Chris when he was an undergrad at Rice through the Rice Rugby team and his work in another lab in the physics department. Though we had never discussed blockchains (and I barely knew what Bitcoin was) he included me on his first email to a group of friends explaining an idea he had for a financial services company based on blockchain technology. Always willing to explore new ideas, I attended that initial meeting, was introduced to Ethereum and began learning about blockchains. Now, 3 years later, I have seen this company drastically change from its humble beginnings into a startup that holds great promise and inspires me to bring good into the world.

Why Topl?

Topl’s commitment to social impact resonates deeply with me as I would likely not be in the position I am today without the generosity of anonymous donors. I do not come from a family of means and fully expected to saddle myself with student loans for college. My application and acceptance to Rice’s undergraduate program was a wonderful mistake of youth insofar as I completely and utterly failed to consider the financial repercussions of attending an institution that at the time would’ve cost over $150K for four years. However, because of a commitment to future students and the social acknowledgement that privilege and class should not be the determining factors in the trajectory of a young person’s life, I was able to attend Rice without the burden of shouldering crippling debt.

One might argue that US colleges are overpriced, debate the merits of need-blind admission, or point to this story as yet another of privilege. But whatever factors led me to where I am today; they have, for me, instilled a deep appreciation for my education and the realization that I am the exception and not the rule.

My involvement with Topl stems from a great personal drive to use my circumstance to work for the betterment of all and to make a lasting impact that empowers the next generation of scientists, engineers, authors, and artists who blindly set their sights above their means and are lifted by their hard work and dedication.

My involvement with Topl stems from a great personal drive to use my circumstance to work for the betterment of all and to make a lasting impact that empowers the next generation of scientists, engineers, authors, and artists who blindly set their sights above their means and are lifted by their hard work and dedication. I truly believe the most lasting change is that which we build ourselves but this does not mean we must go the path alone..

Your Role at Topl

I am officially the Chief Technical Officer but unofficially am known as a pain-in-everyone’s-butt because I like to find problems. Since my formal training is as a physicist, I tend to dissect issues and challenges to their building blocks and typically this means asking a lot of questions. I like to joke with friends that while I’m enrolled in a physics program, I am really getting a PhD in troubleshooting. Particularly in my subfield of physics, we are required to build a lot of custom equipment ranging from ultrahigh vacuum to self designed PID controllers. As you might imagine, these custom jobs tend to break… a lot. So we spend a majority of time learning how to learn and how to ask the questions which reveal the most insightful information. It is in this capacity that I find my experience in IT management and physics intersects: both fields are technically minded and rigorously defined. I believe this is why I am drawn to this type of work and the work I do at Topl.

I believe in Topl because of our lofty ambitions and the response I have felt when pitching the idea to people.

Topl is the third startup that I have been involved in and neither of the previous two ideas felt as promising or as impactful as Topl’s mission. Though I am sometimes daunted by the task which we have chosen to undertake, I believe we have a great team as well as wonderful advisors which provide an extensive well of knowledge from which to draw when we are stuck. Going forward, I think we will continue to revise our core codebase as people break it and we learn how and why we can’t make certain assumptions. We’ll grow as a team and as a company and empower some meaningful growth around the globe!

My favorite thing about Topl is how familiar and comfortable we feel with each other. Our team is young and dispersed around the world but when we are together, we laugh and joke, debate and prod, and can get lost in conversations that last hours upon hours.

Working with such an awesome team on a technically challenging project based on revolutionary computer science to build something to make the world a more equitable and fair place for everyone is not what I thought I’d be doing five years ago, but it is definitely what I want to be doing five year from now!

To get connected with our team, and stay up to date on the latest Topl news, join us on Telegram, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you want to learn more about our our blockchain go to our GitHub.


You change the world. We prove it.