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Cal State LA Receives National Science Foundation Grant to Create a Pathway to Diversity Program 
By Sentinel News Service
Published December 8, 2022

From left, Negin Forouzesh, assistant professor of computer science; Olaseni Sode, associate professor of chemistry; and Paul Nerenberg, associate professor of biology and physics. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

Cal State LA has been awarded an $880,000 grant by the National Science Foundation to increase diversity in STEM fields through recruiting and training the next generation of molecular simulation scientists.  

The three-year grant will help launch the Partnership for Research and Education in Chemistry (PREC) Pathway to Diversity Program, which will be a collaboration between Cal State LA and the Molecular Software Sciences Institute at Virginia Tech (MolSSI).   

“Through this grant, we are excited to see the strengthening of the computational research infrastructure at Cal State LA,” said Olaseni Sode, the grant’s lead principal investigator and an associate professor of chemistry in the College of Natural and Social Sciences at Cal State LA.   

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Sode’s primary area of specialization is computational chemistry. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.     

The project team also includes co-principal investigators Paul Nerenberg, associate professor of biology and physics, and Negin Forouzesh, assistant professor of computer science.  

This new program aims to incorporate machine learning techniques into molecular simulation research and develop innovative teaching materials to train undergraduate students in computational science.  

“Machine learning methods have transformed the fields of chemistry and molecular sciences in recent years, and will continue to do so in the future,” said Sode.  

As part of the PREC program, Cal State LA undergraduate and graduate students will participate year-round in mentored research and attend an annual workshop at MolSSI in order to obtain a deeper understanding of both physical and chemical principles and computational techniques.  

A highlight of the program is a yearly computational workshop held at Cal State LA during the winter session. The purpose of the workshop is to introduce undergraduate students at Cal State LA and local community colleges to scientific programming, computational molecular science and high-performance computing. Local community college students will also take part in mentored summer research experiences with Cal State LA students.  

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