Thanks to sponsoring we can now make molecular simulation tools available not only to hard-core molecular scientists, but also to students.
As mentioned in my previous blog post, my research group has started the PyRETIS project for developing an open-source computer program for molecular simulation. The simulations make it possible to understand not only the expected, but also the unexpected interactions between molecules, combining two main types of Advanced computational algorithms. This is crucial for the fundamental understanding of any chemical process.
The computer program we develop is based on an easy-to-learn programming language, accessible for many. In this way the PyRetis Project can go from being a research-oriented project, to also being a project that could serve teaching purposes.
The Olav Thon Foundation
Luckily, there are those who are willing to invest in research. In Norway we have Olav Thon, the owner of the well-known Thon hotels, which are all over Norway. He decided that part of his fortune should be spend to scientific research and teaching projects, and specifically projects that combine both.
We were very happy that the Olav Thon foundation decided to sponsor our project. In this project, we will not only develop our PyRETIS program scientifically, but we are developing also animations, interactive web applets, and small programs that can be run on a laptop. In this way, we aim to explain the latest algorithms in a way that they become understandable at the master level or even bachelor level.
Teaching through teaching
In addition, we plan to let the students explain the other students. Often professors are not the best persons to explain something because they might unconsciously use to too specialized scientific language or are not aware of the knowledge gaps. The research-teaching project will so serve both sides: Students will learn something new at the edge of scientific development, which can be very stimulating. On the other hand, we will learn how to explain our methodology much better to our scientific colleagues at conferences, workshops, in articles, and provide an easy to use computational library of subroutines.
A special day
The official prize ceremony in the stylish aula of the university of Oslo. Olav Thon handed out the prizes and research supports to all prize winners. This surely was a remarkable day with nice music, good food, and nice speeches. I will especially remember the dinner speech of Olav Thon himself. It was an impressive narrative about his life, how he build up his company starting with basically nothing.
He started his speech by putting on his characteristic red hat because “most people wouldn’t have recognized him yet”. This caused some big laughs. It was really nice to meet other prize winners and the other invitees, among which people from the university boards of the different Norwegian universities, ambassadors of different countries, journalists, and student representatives.
Our project received 1.5 million kroner to be spread out over 3 years. The first realizations of our educational tools were already tested during a PhD school in Mainz, Germany, latest October and during the Molecular Modeling course TKJ4205/KJ8902.
For more information you can check my website: www.van-erp.org or the website of the PyRetis project: www.pyretis.org. The website contains also information how to install the pyretis software and some examples that can be run on your own laptop. If you are interested to contribute to this project, for instance as part of your bachelor or master project, don’t hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the pyretis-team (email@example.com)!