September 01, 2022
From Materials to Medicines – Using Artificial Intelligence to Discover New Molecules
By: Steven Bennett

Throughout my PhD, I always wanted exposure to industry, allowing me to use the data science skills I have developed over the three years I have been studying for my chemistry PhD at Imperial College London. Accenture provided me with that opportunity via the Alan Turing Institute, with the opportunity to embark on a project aimed at discovering new possible medicines using artificial intelligence.

Before applying, I knew of Accenture but little about what the company does or what my day-to-day work as a research associate would involve. Upon beginning the internship, I was greeted by my friendly team, who were always happy to help with my project, and provided me with useful resources to guide the direction of my project and my personal growth. Despite being part of an international organisation, I always felt a connection on a personal level with my team and felt that expertise in most fields was only a message away.

In my PhD, I’m using artificial intelligence to predict new materials that we can make easily in the laboratory. I was keen to apply the research skills and methods I had developed during my PhD to a new project at Accenture. Despite the stark differences between materials and pharmaceuticals discovery, I enjoyed the learning experience and the challenge of entering a new field. Accenture provided me with the resources, guidance, and freedom to undertake this challenge.

In the first months of my internship, I worked on a project involving the application of deep learning methods to the discovery of new pharmaceuticals. Specifically, I reproduced and expanded on work from the scientific literature in the field of artificial intelligence in chemistry, with the goal of adapting the method to predict new molecules with pharmaceutical properties. During the project, I incorporated the methods I have developed during my PhD to ensure that these predicted pharmaceutical molecules can be made in the laboratory. Alongside the independent research skills I have developed, I gained a vital insight into how projects are managed in a large organisation and how to communicate ideas and collaborate with team members effectively.

The internship so far has been an invaluable experience. Being at Accenture has provided me with the opportunity to broaden my research interests, learn from experts in the field of artificial intelligence, and has expanded my professional network. Being provided with the time and freedom to embrace my curiosity in the field has provided me with a diverse learning experience and has increased my motivation to pursue a career in the field.

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