Microsoft Research will open a new lab in Amsterdam led by Max Welling, a physicist who specializes in molecular simulation, looking to further unlock the potential of machine learning in areas such as climate change and healthcare.
The company announced the news Tuesday on the Microsoft Research Podcast.
“This is possibly a moment when machine learning is about to disrupt the field of molecular simulation in much the same way that it’s already transformed fields like computer vision or speech recognition or natural language understanding,” said Chris Bishop, lab director for Microsoft Research Cambridge, on the podcast.
Welling will join Microsoft in September to open the Amsterdam lab. He will retain his position as a research chair at the University of Amsterdam.
“I hope that we can make a start with building a system that can predict properties of molecules, can generate molecules with certain properties, and can search through this enormous space of these molecules,” Welling said on the podcast.
He explained, “There’s so many possible molecules—more than possible atoms in the universe—and you have to somehow search through that space if you’re looking for molecules with certain properties, and it’s only through machine learning that we can now begin to search fast through this space.”
Microsoft has already made its first hire for the new lab: senior researcher Rianne van den Berg, formerly of Google Brain and the University of Amsterdam.
Microsoft Research’s jobs site lists four open positions at the Amsterdam lab.
Amsterdam joins existing Microsoft Research Labs in Asia, Cambridge, India, Montreal, New England, New York and Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters.