Martin Seifrid Wins Scialog Funding for Automated Laboratories

Research Corporation for Science Advancementthe Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, and the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation have made awards to seven multidisciplinary teams of early career researchers in the first year of Scialog: Automating Chemical Laboratories, a three-year initiative that aims to accelerate innovation and broaden access within the chemical enterprise through advances in automated instrumentation and artificial intelligence.

The 18 individual awards of $60,000 in direct costs will go to 17 researchers from a variety of institutions in the United States and Canada.

“We are on the cusp of a revolution in how science gets done. These technologies will change every aspect of the chemical experimental workflow, from what molecules are made, to how they are synthesized, purified, and analyzed.”

RCSA Senior Program Director Andrew Feig

“They could also help democratize science by making discovery open to those with interesting ideas and not just the laboratories with the most expensive, cutting-edge instrumentation,” he added.

Top row: James Grinias, Connor Coley, Jessica Sampson, Michael McGuirk, Andrea Pickel, Grant Rotskoff. 2nd row: Aditi Krishnapriyan, Andrew Zahrt, Martin Seifrid, Cory Simon, Connor Bischak. 3rd row: Jolene Reid, Yu Gan, Daniel Schwalbe-Koda, Gabe Gomes, Jeffrey Lopez, Laura Ackerman-Biegasiewicz.

Scialog is short for “science + dialog.” Created in 2010 by RCSA, the Scialog format aims to accelerate breakthroughs by building a creative network of scientists that crosses disciplinary silos, and by stimulating intensive conversation around a scientific theme of global importance. Participants are selected from multiple disciplines, approaches and methodologies and are encouraged to form teams to propose high-risk, high-reward projects based on innovative ideas that emerge during the conference.

“The biggest problems in science no longer fit neatly into boxes we call disciplines or departments but cross boundaries,” said RCSA President & CEO Daniel Linzer. “As science becomes hypercompetitive, Scialog aims to get back to the roots of what science should be: a collaborative, social event where we talk to each other, learn each other’s language, think about what’s possible, and throw out ideas. Some of those ideas might be the seed of something important.”

The inaugural conference, held April 11-14, 2024, in Tucson, Arizona, engaged participants in a series of conversations designed to build a community eager to share their expertise, discuss challenges and gaps in current knowledge, and devise blue-sky collaborative projects marrying advances in automation and AI to key questions in fundamental research.

Sarah E. Reisman, California Institute of Technology, got discussions started with her keynote talk, “Data-Driven Tools for Synthetic Organic Chemistry,” focusing on her lab’s recent efforts in developing data science and machine learning workflows that can help guide synthetic strategy planning and reaction performance optimization. 

Klavs Jensen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed with “Accelerating Chemical Discovery and Development with Automation and Machine Learning.” His talk used selected examples from the literature and his own laboratory to highlight opportunities and challenges for automation and machine learning to advance chemical discovery.

An expert group of scientists served as Facilitators to guide discussions during the conference. Along with Reisman and Jensen, Facilitators included:  Rajeev Surendran Assary, Argonne National Laboratory; Lane Baker, Texas A&M University; Malika Jeffries-El, Boston University; Anne LaPointe, Cornell University; Philip Leduc, Carnegie Mellon University; Karl Mueller, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Nikki Pohl, Indiana University, Bloomington; and Christopher Welch, Indiana Consortium for Analytical Sciences and Engineering.

The meeting also included a group discussion, moderated by LaPointe and Mueller, on the future of automated facilities. Participants offered opinions, concerns and questions about the benefits and bottlenecks of building a national infrastructure for chemistry research, including how to manage equitable access, and the importance of local and regional research facilities vs. national ones, with a focus on standardization and interoperability.

During mini breakout sessions, participants were challenged to get to know each other and their science, and to envision what it would look like to collaborate, how they could leverage their different approaches and methods, and what novel problems they could tackle together.

Over the weekend, teams coalesced around different projects, and on Sunday morning 29 teams made brief proposal pitches.

The following AUT teams will receive 2024 Scialog Collaborative Innovation Awards:

James Grinias, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Rowan University           
Connor Coley, Chemical Engineering & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jessica Sampson, Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware
Calibration-Free Quantitation of Reaction Yields in High-Throughput Reaction Screening through Absolute Carbon Quantification by LC-FID                   

Michael McGuirk, Chemistry, Colorado School of Mines
Andrea Pickel, Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester
Getting on the Grid: Parallel Nano-Crystallography for Large-Scale Data Generation         

Grant Rotskoff, Chemistry, Stanford University
Aditi Krishnapriyan, Chemical Engineering / Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley
Andrew Zahrt, Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania
Automated Workflows to Assess Physical Constraints in Neural Networks for Molecular Property Prediction           

Martin Seifrid, Materials Science and Engineering, North Carolina State University
Cory Simon, Chemical Engineering, Oregon State University
Connor Bischak, Chemistry, University of Utah
Reducing the Cost of Device Development with Closed-Loop Proxy Measurements and Supplemental Characterization        

Jolene Reid, Chemistry, University of British Columbia         
Yu Gan, Biomedical Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology
Closed-Loop Hypothesis Generation for Automated Chemical Synthesis      

Daniel Schwalbe-Koda, Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles
Gabe Gomes, Chemistry / Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
Jeffrey Lopez, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University
Structure Identification in Complex Chemical Mixtures Using Boltzmann Spectroscopy      

Laura Ackerman-Biegasiewicz, Chemistry, Emory University
Gabe Gomes, Chemistry / Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
A Data-Driven Approach for Derisking Chemical Synthesis                           

The second meeting of Scialog: Automating Chemical Laboratories is scheduled for April 3-6, 2025. Applications to join the initiative as a new Fellow for year two will be accepted until October 1, 2024.

This article was originally published by Research Corporation for Science Advancement.