Dr Hessam Mehr

Published: 18 January 2022

Algorithmic chemical discovery, that is the use of algorithms and automation to accelerate the discovery of new compounds.

 Photo Dr Hessam Mehr


Dr Hessam Mehr
School of Chemistry

Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship - May 2022 - May 2025

Area of Research Algorithmic chemical discovery, that is the use of algorithms and automation to accelerate the discovery of new compounds


Why did you choose to pursue a fellowship in your research career?

From a young age, I wanted to have my own laboratory where I could build machines that would quickly discover the unknowns that we seek instead of us having to find them manually. As a graduate student, I became more familiar with the logistics of realizing this ambition by establishing myself as an independent researcher. Exploring the different funding options during my post-doc, fellowships stood out as a practical, streamlined option, so I went down that route.

Why work at the University of Glasgow?

I came to Glasgow because it was one of the few places in the world exploring the frontier between chemistry, information, and automation. In terms of choosing to start my fellowship here, one main reason was the excellent support of the University’s research development staff, which I found invaluable throughout the fellowship application process.

How would you describe your research in 20 words or less?

I design and build hybrid robotic-chemical systems that have an inbuilt tendency to reveal new reactions and/or useful compounds.

What is your research highlight?

We recently released a programming language that can describe chemical synthesis and can, in principle, run on any robotic chemistry platform. Having been part of the team behind the creation of this language since its inception, it has been very gratifying to watch it grow from an initial sketch to a powerful system that has completely redefined the way many of my colleagues carry out their chemistry experiments every day.

What do you look for in a collaboration?

Primarily, an arrangement that’s beneficial to both sides. I ask myself whether the collaboration allows each side to seek expertise and inspiration from outside their respective area, or for the applications of an idea or project to unfold in dimensions that would not be accessible within a single research group

How do you see your research impacting society?

Society today is faced with some tough questions: how do we prepare for the next pandemic; minimize the environmental impact of our accumulated plastic waste; generate and store energy sustainably? I think chemistry in general, and new methods for discovery of needed compounds and reactions in particular, have hugely untapped potential to help overcome these challenges.

What next?

My plan before the start of my fellowship is to procure the necessary equipment for the initial stage of my proposal, which would allow me to hit the ground running. I am also looking to recruit a PhD student in September.

First published: 18 January 2022