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Connor Coley named a Chemical and Engineering News Talented Twelve

Chemical engineering graduate student was named a “machine-learning maestro” by the magazine.
Graduate student Connor Coley has been honored for his work in the field of machine learning and chemical synthesis.
Graduate student Connor Coley has been honored for his work in the field of machine learning and chemical synthesis.
Image Courtesy of Connor Coley

Connor Coley, currently pursuing his graduate degree in chemical engineering at MIT, has been selected as one of 2018’s “Talented Twelve” by Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly magazine of the American Chemical Society. Coley was recognized for his work in “reprogramming the way chemists design drugs.”

Currently a member of the Klavs Jensen and William Green research groups, Coley is focused on improving automation and computer assistance in synthesis planning and reaction optimization with medicinal chemistry applications. He is more broadly interested in the design and construction of automated microfluidic platforms for analytics (e.g. kinetic or process understanding) and on-demand synthesis. Coley’s work is an integral part of the new MIT-industry consortium, Machine Learning for Pharmaceutical Discovery and Synthesis.

As described in C&EN, “Machine learning aims to create artificial intelligence systems that make decisions with little intervention from people. Coley's efforts in this arena have blossomed into a collaboration between MIT and eight drug industry partners, known as the Machine Learning for Pharmaceutical Discovery and Synthesis Consortium. While most other chemists working in the field of machine learning and chemical synthesis use rules devised by experts to guide their systems, Coley relies on reactions in databases, such as those in U.S. patent filings, to teach the computer what transformations will and won't take place without being influenced by human bias.”

Earlier this year, Coley was also named a 2018 “Riser” by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

To find its annual Talented Twelve, C&EN consulted a panel of industry advisers, the publication's advisory board, and Talented Twelve alumni to nominate prospects aged 42 or younger “who are taking risks in the early stages of their career.” They also accepted nominations from readers through an online form. The team researched and evaluated more than 350 candidates before finalizing the 2018 Talented Twelve.

Professors Brady Olsen and Fikile Brushett, also of MIT Chemical Engineering, have previously been named to this group.

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