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Science Lab


Informed by recent National Academies Reports and customer surveys, the proposed AIMEMS NRT program aims to train University of Chicago (UChicago) graduate students on artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) and AI-enabled molecular engineering of materials and systems for sustainability. The AIMEMS NRT will train 20 NRT trainees with stipend (15 PhD, 5 MS) and 25 NRT trainees without stipend (15 PhD, 10 MS), producing a total of 45 NRT trainees. In addition, 100 other graduate students will benefit from NRT project components over the 5-year period. The program is empowered through strategic partnership with Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne) by leveraging Argonne’s world-class expertise and facilities in materials characterization (e.g., Advanced Photon Sources – Upgrade or APS-U), supercomputing (e.g., Aurora supercomputer), and materials engineering research facility (MERF). New courses in AI/ML for molecular engineering, advanced materials characterization, supercomputing, and scalable manufacturing with course modules tied to specific Argonne facilities will be developed. Students will have opportunities to take these new courses as well as existing UChicago courses to receive graduate degrees or a minor degree/certificate in computational molecular engineering. Students’ professional skills will be trained through seminars, mini-courses, workshops and annual retreats. Research connections will be established through various cutting-edge, team-based, convergent research projects. The integration of AI/ML in these research projects will accelerate scientific discovery and technological innovation. Graduate students will be co-advised by a team consisting of a UChicago faculty, an Argonne scientist, and an industrial advisor. The proposed NRT program has the potential to serve as a national model for training next-generation AI-empowered graduate student leaders through strategic, inclusive university-national laboratory-industry partnerships.

Broader Impacts

Breakthroughs in sustainability research will impact everyone. Innovations in sustainability thus will lead to wide-ranging societal impact. The AIMEMS program is aligned with existing UChicago graduate programs, strategically leverages world-class analytical, computational, and manufacturing expertise and facilities at Argonne with billions of dollars of investment from the U.S. government, and will lead to sustainable training programs at UChicago. Graduates from AIMEMS will have technical and professional skills to effectively lead an interdisciplinary team to responsibly solve global challenges in a rapidly evolving environment. Their ability to effectively communicate, work in teams, lead, teach, and mentor will make them versatile STEM research professionals. AIMEMS is fully dedicated to deepening the educational impact on STEM diversity, creating leadership and research opportunities for women, along with disabled and minority populations. We will accomplish this through various educational, training and outreach activities by leveraging existing diversity programs at UChicago and Argonne, and our partnership with NSF INCLUDES and minority-serving institutions.

Intellectual Merit

Engineering materials and systems at the molecular level offers the most exciting opportunity to design and tune material/system properties towards various applications, while use-inspired research driven by sustainability could lead to tremendous societal benefits. New interdisciplinary courses and course modules around AI/ML, APS-U analytical tools, Aurora computational tools, and MERF scalable manufacturing will equip NRT trainees with specific technical skills. Students will take part in specifically designed professional training programs particularly in science communication, teaching & mentor, leadership & management, and career exploration & preparedness. NRT trainees will carry out team-based, convergent research projects in molecular engineering of various soft and hard materials and assembly of these materials into systems toward water, energy, polymer, and sustainability applications. The NRT program highlights close connection between the training elements and the convergent research theme; high degree of interdisciplinarity to promote high-impact synergies among various disciplines; rich professional development training for a range of research and research-related career pathways, both within and outside academia; strategic recruitment, mentoring, and retention plans to broaden participation.

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