Microsoft lab to ‘supercharge molecular science’ through machine learning

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Microsoft Research announced plans yesterday (20 July) to open a lab in Amsterdam focussed on advancing molecular simulation by using machine learning, quantum chemistry and quantum computing.

The lab will be led by Dr Max Welling, who specialises in computer science and machine learning. He was initially trained in physics but migrated to machine learning as his career continued. Welling will be joining Microsoft Research in September.

He was hosted on the Microsoft Research podcast by Chris Bishop, a lab director of Microsoft Research in Europe, where the announcement was made.

“Molecules are basically everything around us, except for light and a few other forces that we can’t really see. Everything else is made of molecules and yet we don’t really understand them – we can’t really predict their properties,” said Welling.

“So, if we start to understand molecules better, then a number of applications become within reach. We can start to design better catalysts, for instance to help the hydrogen economy.”

This new lab will use cloud-scale deep learning technology to better understand how molecules behave and predict and simulate properties that serve societal needs.

Through these simulations, the lab’s goal is to address issues such as climate change, healthcare, drug discovery and sustainable materials.

Bishop leads the Cambridge Microsoft Research lab in the UK. The research team there particularly focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to try and push the “boundaries of computing in an inclusive way, resulting in robust and trusted technologies that can be deployed at scale.”

“Building on foundational molecular modelling research, we aim to supercharge molecular science by using machine learning,” said Bishop.

“Just as it has already revolutionised fields like computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language understanding, we believe machine learning is set to make a similar transformation in the field of molecular simulation.

“This has tremendous potential for real-world impact on some of the most important challenges facing society including climate change, drug discovery, and understanding biology to help us treat disease.”

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