Mexican-American chemist on why he left Harvard for U of T

Alán Aspuru-Guzik, a Mexican-American scholar in theoretical and computational chemistry, was recently named a Canada 150 Research Chair jointly appointed to the University of Toronto’s departments of chemistry and computer science.

At an event this week co-hosted by the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City, Ted Sargent, U of T’s vice-president international, spoke with Aspuru-Guzik about his decision to move to U of T after 12 years at Harvard University.

Ted Sargent: You are a great example of the kind of scholar we are so proud to have at U of T. Tell me the story of how you decided to join us.

Alán Aspuru-Guzik: The moment when I decided to leave the U.S., I looked around the globe – Europe, Australia, Canada – for where I wanted to go to. I already had a relationship with Canada through the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).

Within Canada, U of T is a very special place in a very diverse city. I thought, this is where I want my kids to grow up. Fifty per cent of people in Toronto are foreign-born. And there are professors like you, a finalist for the Carbon XPrize. You are the kind of faculty who attracted me to U of T.

Ted Sargent: What will life look like on the ground at U of T?

Alán Aspuru-Guzik: U of T has given me a very interesting opportunity. The university is so diverse and dynamic. I will be in chemistry, and I will make compounds with my robots and maybe work together with your lab. We will get our arms around the chemical data from computers and robots using machine learning strategies arising from computer science. In other words, we’ll use robots to synthesize and test chemicals, and we’ll put machine learning in the loop to automate and accelerate the discovery process.

Read the full Q&A on U of T News.