Skip to content


RIT Joins Multi-Institutional Team Consisting Of Researchers From The University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University Laboratory High School, Ulsan National Institute Of Science And Technology, Northwestern University, & Penn State 

Reps Say NSF Funding Will Ensure Rochester Is At The Forefront Of Chemical Research, Further Develop Role Of AI In Scientific Discovery; Key Application Of Research Will Be To Find More Reliable Ways To Create Solar Cells

Reps: Federal Funding Will Help RIT Synthesize A Cleaner Tomorrow

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Congressman Joseph Morelle today announced the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) will be receiving federal funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help create the multi-institutional Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy and Manufacturing — or the Molecule Maker Lab Institute (MMLI). RIT joined the $20 million NSF project, which will use AI to accelerate experimentation in chemistry, in collaboration with The University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University Laboratory High School, Ulsan National Institute Of Science And Technology, Northwestern University, and Penn State. The representatives noted that a key application of the research conducted by the MMLI will be finding more efficient ways to create solar cells.

“Establishing part of the NSF Molecule Maker Lab Institute at RIT guarantees that Rochester will be at the forefront of chemical research in our country,” said Senator Schumer. “RIT’s work will develop revolutionary AI technology to push innovations in chemistry, and help reimagine the way scientific discoveries are made in the future. It is especially promising to hear that their research will directly improve the way we manufacture solar cells, helping to boost our clean energy industry and create new American manufacturing jobs. I am proud to announce that RIT will continue to be a hub for American scientific discovery and innovation, and that their efforts will help provide for a more efficient, safer, and cleaner tomorrow.”

“The world-class scientists at RIT have made ground-breaking discoveries and this funding will guarantee the university’s ability to lead the clean energy industry forward,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Molecule Maker Lab Institute will place RIT at the forefront of AI discovery and crucial chemical research that will build a stronger America for decades to come. I’m proud that NSF has awarded these funds to one of the top institutions in New York and I will continue pushing to ensure our state remains a leader in scientific innovation.”

“RIT boasts a world-class team of innovators, and this significant grant award will help leverage their unique assets to further strengthen our position as a leader in artificial intelligence technology,” said Congressman Morelle. “Congratulations to Professor Zanibbi on this exciting opportunity that will help position our national economy and workforce for the future. I’m grateful to NSF for recognizing RIT’s talent and expertise in this field, and I look forward to the growth and success of the Molecule Maker Lab Institute.”

“As a national research university, RIT is proud of Professor Zanibbi, and very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this important effort to strengthen and solidify our nation’s leadership in artificial intelligence,” said Ellen Granberg, RIT provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “Being invited to participate in this consortium is a testament to our faculty’s expertise, and reflects on investments that RIT and its government partners have made in strategic research areas, including AI. We look forward to a successful collaboration with the University of Illinois and the other university partners.

Specifically, the representatives said, the institute will focus on developing new AI-enabled tools to accelerate automated chemical synthesis and advance the discovery and manufacture of novel materials and bioactive compounds. Researchers use the data generated from the analysis of these molecules to guide further development of synthesis planning and catalyst design tools using AI and machine learning. The institute also serves as a training ground for the next generation of scientists with combined expertise in AI, chemistry, and bioengineering.

The NSF is establishing five new AI institutes to accelerate research, expand America's workforce, and transform society in the decades to come. The MMLI is one of those five new institutes. Enabled by sustained federal investment and channeled toward issues of national importance, continued advancement in AI research holds the potential for further economic impact and improvements in quality of life.

With an investment of over $100 million over the next five years, NSF's AI Institutes represent the nation's most significant federal investment in AI research and workforce development to date. The $20 million investment in each of five NSF AI institutes is just the beginning, with more institute announcements anticipated in the coming years.

Computer Science Professor Richard Zanibbi will lead RIT’s contributions to the MMLI.