NCSA supports IGB’s new NSF-funded Molecule Maker Lab Institute to accelerate AI research

09.04.20 -

Last week, the National Science Foundation announced $100 million in funding for five new artificial intelligence institutes. Among the five NSF-funded institutes, $20 million was awarded to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy, and Manufacturing, more commonly referred to as the Molecule Maker Lab Institute (MMLI). The National Center for Supercomputing Applications will support the MMLI by leveraging its developments in research cyberinfrastructure to support the data management and tool integration needs of the effort.

Kenton McHenry, NCSA's Associate Director for Software, joins MMLI principal investigator Humin Zhao, Steven L. Miller Chair professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Illinois, as a collaborator on the effort. McHenry is excited to be part of the new institute that focuses on developing new AI-enabled tools to accelerate automated chemical synthesis to advance the discovery and manufacture of novel materials and bioactive compounds. The institute will also serve as a training ground for scientists with combined expertise in AI, chemistry, and bioengineering.

"The MMLI Center will leverage the rapid advancements in AI to bring together the data, knowledge, and tools to change the landscape of chemical synthesis," says McHenry. "In the long history of NCSA's support for computing and software within scientific research, it is my hope to amplify these efforts by leveraging the expertise and technologies NCSA has contributed to towards a data-enabled research cyberinfrastructure more broadly, including the growing realization into the importance of Research Software Engineers as part of science today."

Located at UIUC's Institute for Genomic Biology, the MMLI features a multi-institutional team with researchers from across Illinois' campus which includes the Grainger College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and NCSA, as well as collaborators from the University Laboratory High School, Northwestern University, Penn State University, and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Read the full NSF and IGB award announcements for more information about the MMLI.

About NCSA

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation's science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing one third of the Fortune 50® for more than 30 years by bringing industry, researchers, and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.