The newly started ML-MULTIMEM project is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship, a competitive European research funding programme that targets early-stage career researchers, to promote mobility across Europe and foster the acquisition of new skills and the transfer of knowledge across institutions.

ML-MULTIMEM stands for Machine Learning-aided Multiscale Modelling Framework for Polymer Membranes and is a collaboration between SKEL | The AI lab, Institute of Informatics and Telecommunications (IIT) and the Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (INN) of the National Center for Scientific Research Demokritos in Greece.

This multidisciplinary endeavour aims to apply Artificial Intelligence (ΑΙ) tools in computer simulations of materials for carbon capture applications. In that context, postdoctoral researcher Dr Eleonora Ricci was awarded the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship and has resided from Italy to Athens for the next two years to study the application of machine learning models to materials simulation for carbon capture processes.

To find out more about her research, the interview below sheds light on the expected impact this fellowship aims to make as well and highlights the collaboration between two Institutes within NCSR Demokritos.


An interview with Dr Eleonora Ricci

Question by IIT Communications Team: Eleonora, how did you come about conducting research in Greece?

Answer by Dr Eleonora Ricci: I visited Greece for the first time in 2017, as a visiting PhD student from the University of Bologna in Italy, to learn about molecular simulations from world-leading experts at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and the Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (INN) at NCSR Demokritos. These collaborations have been ongoing ever since, benefitting also from the European mobility programme HPC Europa 3, which allowed me to visit NCSR Demokritos again twice over the years, and ultimately evolved into the current project.

Q: What are your expectations from this programme?

A: I look forward to making a foray into the field of AΙ and learn how it can benefit material science research and environmental applications. Although I am a chemical engineer, I have always been keen on computer science, and I am excited about the opportunity to acquire a new skillset in this field.

I am thrilled about collaborating within the interdisciplinary team enabled by the project. The synergy between SKEL | The AI lab of IIT (Dr Vangelis Karkaletsis and Dr George Giannakopoulos) and the Molecular Thermodynamics and Modelling of Materials Laboratory (MTMML) (Dr Niki Vergadou) of INN provides the best conditions for addressing some long-standing open challenges in the molecular simulation field, and it provides me with a tremendous opportunity for growth and learning. Part of the research work will also be conducted in collaboration with the School of Chemical Engineering at NTUA (Prof Doros N. Theodorou).

Q: What impact do you think your research could have on society?

A: The target application of this research is carbon capture. Indeed, to tackle climate change and curb carbon emissions at source in industry, disruptive innovation in green separation technologies, such as polymer membranes, is sorely needed. Better materials are necessary in order to make the process economically viable and computer simulations, integrated with ΑΙ tools, have the potential to guide and accelerate the next breakthrough in materials discovery, which currently relies on a costly and time-consuming trial and error process.

Moreover, the development of such simulations paradigms would horizontally benefit materials research for any other application dealing with polymeric systems, thus widening the scope and potential impact of this work on society.

Q: Tell us about your experience in Greece and at NCSR Demokritos so far.

A: I am having a truly wonderful experience, thanks to the amazing talented professionals that I met here at NCSR Demokritos, who really went out of their way to support me and make me feel welcome, and with whom I am also connected on a personal level. Demokritos is a vibrant multidisciplinary centre. I am looking forward to taking full advantage of all the professional growth opportunities it offers, and I am extremely happy to be working and learning here with for the next 2 years. In terms of culture and values, I never had the feeling that there is a fundamental difference between Italy and Greece, and it is very easy to adapt. I especially enjoy learning about the local customs and traditions, and there is an openness about Greek culture that I really wish to absorb and carry with me in the future.

Q: Would you suggest the programme to your peers?

A: Absolutely! I believe it is a great enabler for projects with an ambitious vision and an excellent opportunity for early-stage career researchers to develop professionally, establish new relations and learn new skills. Also, travelling and living abroad is a great way to grow on a personal level and develop a more open and compassionate mindset. I would definitely encourage everyone who has the possibility to do so, to apply.

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