Andrew Ferguson

Associate professor of molecular engineering and Vice Dean of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Andrew Ferguson

Research and Scholarly Interests

Molecular simulation, statistical thermodynamics, machine learning, inverse materials design, enhanced sampling, protein folding, self-assembly

Lab Group

What drew you to PME?

I was initially drawn to PME for three main reasons—world-class faculty colleagues doing some of the most diverse and exciting research, excellent students from across the world, and some of the best computational facilities in the world at UChicago and Argonne. I was also very interested to be in a relatively young and new institution with the concomitant ability and responsibility to help shape its growth and future.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in your time at PME?

In terms of people, I am very pleased to have recruited and worked with impressive PhD students and postdocs, and to have started some really exciting collaborations with my colleagues both in PME and in PSD, including Rama Ranganathan, Aaron Esser-Kahn, Nicolas Chevrier, Juan de Pablo, Norbert Scherer, and Dmitri Talapin. I’m also pleased to be the inaugural vice dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion, and to be leading new EDI initiatives within the department. I was excited to co-found a protein engineering startup with Ranganathan based on some work we are doing together. I was also honored to be a 2020 recipient of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation: Machine Learning for the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Award.

Where do you see PME in 10 years?

I see PME at the forefront of scientific and engineering breakthroughs in materials, immunoengineering, and quantum technologies. I think that the school will be double or even triple its current size and we will have even stronger connections with PSD, Argonne, and Fermilab. We will have a very strong base of undergraduate and graduate alumni at top industrial, academic, and government positions, and we will have spun out multiple companies and have greatly strengthened our connections with industry partners. I also think that we will have greatly improved the representation of traditionally underrepresented minority groups in our faculty and student bodies and have a supportive and welcoming climate of equity and inclusion.

What breakthroughs do you anticipate will happen in your field in 10 years?

I think that it will become relatively routine to use sophisticated and powerful integrated artificial intelligence and smart robotics to engineer molecules and materials. This will enable us as researchers to shift our focus from lower-level tasks (e.g., let’s change these chemical groups) to higher-level abstractions (e.g., let’s find a protein to do task X) and massively accelerate the pace of scientific discovery.

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