Better Together: The MolSSI PIs

The MolSSI started off as an idea—a vision for the future of the computational molecular sciences community, whose advancement is spurred by accessible and sustainable code. And, like most big ideas, it takes more than one person to bring it to fruition.

The MolSSI is fortunate to have a team of incredible PIs working to elevate the Institute and its work within the community. Professor Shantenu Jha described the MolSSI as “an amazing set of people who have come together to work at this interface of computing and molecular science, who embrace the intellectual joys and challenges of what we do.” Specifically of the PIs, he explained that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Together we have put together a great team that is covering everything that MolSSI needs to succeed, which none of us could do on our own.”

“Everyone brings something different to the table,” Professor Robert Harrison noted. “We have a diverse set of interests: for example, we have people interested in crowd-sourced science—so citizen science can accelerate the rate of science—and people interested in the largest supercomputers on the planet. You name it, we’ve got someone that does it, and that’s what makes it fun.”

“It is a very broad team with a broad range of expertise,” Professor Cecilia Clementi noted. “We are a good mix and come from very different backgrounds. Many of us are self-taught in computer science as well.” It’s a small but important detail: our PIs know what it’s like to learn coding without formal guidance, and therefore understand the position many others are in, as well as agree on the MolSSI’s critical importance to the community.

“What I’ve been really happy with is that we are genuinely a good team,” Professor Teresa Head-Gordon said. “We all are committed and complementary.”

Not only does the range of experience, education, and research make for a more exciting and rich intellectual experience, but it helps us be better at solving those enormous problems that face our community. A breadth of diverse voices and perspectives helps us understand the concerns of our larger community, not just the concerns of one or two pockets, and pushes us to think through solutions that are applicable to a much wider field. We can craft better workshops, develop better databases, and provide stronger education for the community when we can hear from a range of perspectives.

Furthermore, having advocates in the community is also an enormous advantage. The standards and structure we’re working to develop in our community require buy-in from the community itself, not only in terms of implementing and communicating, but also in helping us see the gaps and pain points. Having leaders within the community from a variety of institutions who are part of the MolSSI encourages those conversations. It creates that organic discussion and investment we need in order to succeed. It gives us more entry points into the community, as well as gives the community more touchpoints for communicating their concerns to us.

“This is a grassroots led community,” Professor Harrison said of the molecular software science community. “This is about them. There’s lots of leadership we can and should provide. Ultimately, we are there to resource and reflect what the community needs.”

“I wish more people knew about the opportunity this offers. This is a service to the community and we want the community to engage with us,” Professor Clementi noted.

Being supported by an incredible group of dedicated, outstanding leaders in their fields is paramount to our success, just as support from our greater community carries us forward. We encourage our community to reach out if they have a question or concern the MolSSI may be able to help with: our team will do anything it can to help make coding better for our whole community.