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Research dean to teach molecular simulations ‘crash course’ to grad students in Beijing

In a one-week intensive course in June, engineering’s associate dean for research will teach molecular simulations to 44 graduate students in Beijing.

“I’m presenting a crash course for chemical engineering students on how to perform simulations of materials from the molecule up,” said Peter Cummings, also the John R. Hall Professor of Engineering.

Peter Cummings

Cummings is a globally recognized expert in molecular modeling and simulations. In addition to his research accomplishments in molecular theory and molecular simulation, Cummings has been largely responsible for the acceptance of molecular modeling and simulation as an integral part of chemical engineering.

Cummings accepted the invitation to teach at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences from Suojiang Zhang, director general of the Institute of Process Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Zhang also is a faculty member at UCAS.

Cummings and colleagues in the Multiscale Modeling and Simulations group and the Institute for Software Integrated Systems at Vanderbilt have developed a tool that “simplifies dramatically” the work involved in performing research-quality molecular simulations. The environment is named Molecular Simulation Design Framework, and he will teach the course using MoSDeF.

“MoSDeF also makes it easy to publish reproducible simulations, and reproducibility in computational science is becoming as important as reproducibility in science in general,” Cummings said. Vanderbilt graduate student Andrew Summers, an expert MoSDeF practitioner, will run computer labs during the June 25-29 course, helped by three UCAS graduate teaching assistants.

“I view this as a great opportunity to further raise Vanderbilt’s visibility among key Chinese scientists and engineers, as well as getting our software tools in the hands of a large group of very bright graduate students,” Cummings said.

UCAS enrolls more than 44,000 graduate students and has recently admitted undergraduate students. The Chinese university has a memorandum of understanding for undergraduates in materials and physics to come to Vanderbilt for semester abroad experiences, Cummings added. “We hope that through this effort, we can expand this to chemical and other engineering and scientific disciplines.”

Cummings directs Vanderbilt’s Multiscale Modeling and Simulation center, an interdisciplinary research facility in the School of Engineering. In addition to molecular simulation, his research interests include statistical mechanics, computational materials science, computational and theoretical nanoscience, and computational biology.

Contact: Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314