MolSSI Software Fellow Alum: Dr. João Rodrigues

Dr. João Rodrigues, one of our former MolSSI Software Seed Fellows, is now a Senior Scientist at Schrodinger. While a 2020 MolSSI Seed Fellow, João worked with MolSSI Software Scientist Dr. Levi Naden on developing an open-source library to characterize the chemistry and energetics of protein interfaces.

How did you first become interested in molecular science?

As a kid, I was always interested in science and often asked my parents for chemistry kits or encyclopedias as gifts. I remember being 7 or 8 and playing reviewer with a friend, pointing out mistakes in models of the solar system made by older students at our school. Later, as a biochemistry major in college, I was floored by the illustrations of proteins and nucleic acids in classical textbooks and decided this was what I wanted to study.

How are you benefitting from being a MolSSI Software Fellow?

More so than the opportunity to work on my code, the MolSSI fellowship gave me the motivation and confidence that I was going in the right direction. It was unfortunate that COVID hit right at the beginning of the fellowship and I had to devote my attention to other projects, but I will definitely make use of what I learned for future projects. I also enjoyed meeting the rest of the mentors, scientists, and fellows and work with them for example on creating and presenting educational materials. That’s a fantastic initiative that should keep being funded and promoted.

Describe your engagement with your MolSSI Software Scientist mentor.

The bootcamp we had in February was quite interesting. I can’t say I learned something I didn’t know before, but it was very useful to contextualize some of the concepts I had in my head and create a better roadmap for my project. It was also helpful to go through my fellow students’ and mentor’s code and see how they did certain things.

What are your long-term career plans?

After 12 years doing research in academia, I am giving industry a chance and will join a drug development company to work on developing software for protein structure prediction. I definitely don’t rule out returning to academia later on, but one step at a time! I do plan on keeping developing open-source software for structural biology as much as I can.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

The first time I tried to cook, I mistook a kiwi for a potato. So, I am proud that I managed to survive on my own in multiple countries since then. Scientifically speaking, I am most proud of my work with HADDOCK, which is used by thousands of researchers every year, for free.

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

Definitely traveling, specially with friends. Before COVID, I used to go on a “tour” every summer to visit friends all over Europe. I replaced that this year with short trips to national parks in California.

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

Scientifically, I would like to publish a single-author paper. I think that’s the ultimate proof of independence. Personally, it would be consistently running 10k in less than 1 hour.

Use these links if you’d like to know more about João Rodrigues and his current work: