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The Gagliardi Group research project selection process

A summary was compiled by graduate student Daniel King:

How to Select a Project?

On April 2, 2020, the Gagliardi group met to discuss the question of how to select research projects. The following is a summary of that discussion.

It was agreed upon that first-year graduate students should spend their time getting to know what they are interested in and reading the literature. These students should be prepared for projects to not work out and worry less about what comes after their PhD; self-knowledge and learning how much time it takes to accomplish research goals is more important at this stage. In extreme cases, switching research groups may be the best option.

More experienced graduate students began to express an interest in the logistics of a project and its range of possible outcomes. “Who will I be working with? What will I be doing? How long will this project take? How will this project affect me if things don’t work out?”

Senior graduate students began to express interest in their careers after graduate school. “How can I align my research with what I would like to do after my PhD in terms of lifestyle and research interests? How does the project demonstrate to an employer that I am able to learn new skills?”

Postdocs began to express an interest in contributing to the scientific community at large. “How does this project help others? Will my project contribute to the field in a meaningful way?”

As advice to junior investigators, Professor Gagliardi put an emphasis on making yourself a unique expert in the field. “Is there a reason that you should be doing this project over anyone else? Will this project complement the skills you have in a unique and interesting way?”

In conclusion, there are a wide range of factors to consider when choosing a project, and which ones you value when choosing a project can and should vary heavily depending on the stage of your career.

Gagliardi Group members collaborate on a JCTC publication.

Several Gagliardi Group members have collaborated on a recent JCTC publication, “Automation of Active Space Selection for Multireference Methods via Machine Learning on Chemical Bond Dissociation.”Postdoc WooSeok Jeong, former graduate student Sam Stoneburner, and Laura designed a project aimed at popularizing CASSCF by making it easier to select good active spaces. In collaboration with first-year graduate student Daniel King, undergraduate Andrew Walker, visiting undergraduate Ruye Li from Tsinghua University, and Professor Roland Lindh from Uppsala University, they developed a machine learning protocol that performs an automated selection of active spaces for chemical bond dissociation calculations of main group diatomic molecules.

Collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory advances the knowledge of actinide systems

In collaboration with scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Laura and former postdoc Jing Xie (currently an assistant professor at the School of Chemistry and Engineering, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing, China) have synthesized and characterized the first 2-metallabiphenylene compounds, advancing the knowledge of actinide systems that can show unique spectroscopies and reactivities.

This work has been published in Nature and featured in Chemistry World and ChemistryViews.

Gagliardi group members publish collaborative works.

In a highly collaborative work, researchers were able to report the activation of C2 and C3 alkanes over well-defined, mononuclear iron sites situated within the nodes of a MOF that bear similar nuclearity, oxidation state (+2), and spin state (S=2) to iron centers in certain enzymes that activate alkanes oxidatively. Experiments characterizing the bulk structure of the MOF and its reactivity were performed by Gagliardi group graduate student Matthew Simons (co-advised by Aditya Bhan), and Jenny Vitillo, Ph.D., Gagliardi group postdoc (co-advised by Connie Lu), performed the synthesis and quantum mechanical characterization of the material. This study has recently been reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.