MolSSI Software Fellow Alum: Dr. Alon Grinberg Dana

Prof. Alon Grinberg Dana, one of our former MolSSI Software Seed Fellows, is now heading his own research group at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology– focusing on a central problem in chemical engineering:  quantitatively predicting the reactivity of various chemical systems. Alon and colleagues are developing simulation technologies to solve practical problems at the crossroads of chemical engineering and applied energy research using high-fidelity kinetic models based on computational chemistry.

How did you first become interested in molecular science?

When I joined Prof. William Green’s group at MIT I was exposed to software that is being used for generating kinetic models. I learned a lot about these predictive tools, and at a certain point I identified a gap of missing practical software tools for further refining these models.

How are you benefitting from being a MolSSI Software Fellow?

I had practical experience with software development, but never had an official training. So first, the boot-camp at MolSSI was significant in terms of closing knowledge gaps I had. Most importantly, I benefited from a close relation to MolSSI Software Scientists which have a tremendous affect over the project I’m working on. Also, the connections I made with other MolSSI Fellows are incredibly valuable.

Describe your engagement with your MolSSI Software Scientist mentor.

I had several formal mentors and received informal assistance from other MolSSI Software Scientists. They introduced me to many of the technical details of working out my way in SQL database which is crucial for my project.

What are your long-term career plans?

As of three months ago I am an Assistant Professor at the Technion in Israel.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Writing an ecosystem of software tools (4 independent software pieces) that together significantly advance the state of automated kinetic model generation and refinement.

What are you happiest doing when you’re not working?

Spending time with my family and wood working!

What’s a goal you have for yourself that you’d like to accomplish in the next year or two?

Having the ecosystem of software tools working automatically.

Message from Alon to readers:

My PhD training was exclusively experimental, and I was exposed to the world of computational chemistry only during my postdoc training. At first I heavily suffered from the imposter syndrome, but somehow managed to cure it after a year. I ended up becoming a Senior Postdoc (was a Postdoc for 5 years overall, which is a lot in our field), working on open-source projects in chemical kinetics, nurturing my newly discovered enthusiasm for open-source software development.  What excites me the most is that each mountain we conquer we automate in code, making it a non-issue in future projects, allowing for an exponential growth of our ability to make predictions to real world processes.

Use these links if you’d like to know more about Dr. Alon Grinberg Dana and his current work: