Lecture Series at IIT Delhi

How Science Thinks: Big Data, Machine Learning and the Acceleration of Reason

Date and Time: 15th September 2016, 3 pm

Venue: LH111

Title: How Science Thinks: Big Data, Machine Learning and the Acceleration of Reason


I explore how computationally modeling and predicting the scientific process can create opportunities for improving it. I begin by demonstrating how the complex network of modern biomedical science provides a substrate on which a scientist--and indeed science as a whole--thinks, and its consequences for ongoing scientific discovery and human health. Using millions of scientific articles from MEDLINE, I show how science moves conservatively from problems posed and questions answered in one year to those examined in the next. Along the way, I show how contemporary science "changes its mind"; how it has become more risk-averse and less efficient at discovery; how the atmosphere of its own internal puzzles have largely decoupled it from health needs. We use this as an opportunity to demonstrate how much more efficient strategies can be found for mature fields, which involve greater individual risk-taking than the structure of modern scientific careers supports, and propose institutional alternatives that maximize a range of valuable objectives, from scientific discovery to robust understanding to technological advance. I will discuss exciting opportunities to apply machine learning in not only the science of science, the social sciences, and an emerging science of data.


James Evans is Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute, Director of Knowledge Lab (knowledgelab.org) and Director of the Computational Social Science program (macss.uchicago.edu). His work explores the sources, structure, dynamics and consequences of modern knowledge. Evans is particularly interested in the relation of markets to science and knowledge more broadly, and how evolutionary and generative models can inform our understanding of collective representations, experiences and certainty. He has studied how industry collaboration shapes the ethos, secrecy and organization of academic science; the web of individuals and institutions that produce innovations; and markets for ideas and their creators. Evans has also examined the impact of the Internet on knowledge in society. His work uses natural language processing, the analysis of social and semantic networks, statistical modeling, and field-based observation and interviews. Evans' research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Mellon and Templeton Foundations and has been published in Science, PNAS, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Social Studies of Science, Administrative Science Quarterly and other journals. His work has been featured in Nature, the Economist, Atlantic Monthly, Wired, NPR, BBC, El Pais, CNN and many other outlets.

HPC Seminar by Dr. Ali Haider


15 SEP 2016, 430PM BHARTI 106

Molecular Heterogeneous Catalysis for a Sustainable Future

by M. Ali Haider, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi


State-of-the-art in research and development of novel technologies for energy and chemicals is directed towards the design of next-generation materials, augmented with ab-initio molecular simulations. The critical role of density functional theory (DFT) simulations to understand the molecular-level design and functioning of a catalytic or electrocatalytic material is elucidated in two approaches. In the first, biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals was carried out in an integrated bio- and chemo-catalytic process. A specific case of unprecedented selectivity in phenol hydrogenation, obtained on palladium nanostructures, underscores the importance of facet-dependent selectivity and second-order structure sensitivity in heterogeneous catalysis.

In the second approach, layered perovskite structured materials were designed with anisotropic oxygen anion diffusion, leading to the formation of diffusive pore channels in the electrode of a solid oxide fuel cell. Predictions from theoretical simulations were applied to thoughtfully fabricate a nanostructured electrode either by synthesizing a thin-film or a nanoparticle to achieve high electrochemical performance.

In order to address both the problems, plane-wave DFT code, as implemented in the Vienna Ab initio simulation package (VASP), was utilized. Parallel computations performed with VASP at the HPC facility of IIT Delhi were helpful in developing a design-principle by unraveling the reaction and operating mechanisms for conducting a well-defined experiment.


M. Ali Haider has completed his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from University of Virginia in 2011 and B. Tech. in Biotechnology from IIT Guwahati in 2006. As a postdoctoral associate, he possesses experience of working with the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC), USA. He joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT Delhi as an assistant professor in 2013. Recently, he has received the Bioenergy-Awards for Cutting Edge Research Fellowship supported by the Indo–US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), India. His research interests are in experimental heterogeneous catalysis, computational catalysis (DFT), solid oxide fuel cells, biorenewable chemicals and fuels.


Talk on GPS Technology


SIT SEMINAR ROOM (ground floor SIT bldg), Wednesday Aug 24th, 4pm


GPS: An Indispensable Technology


Prof. Pratap Misra, Tufts University


GPS in many ways is like the Internet. Both are gifts of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to the civil community. Both continue to transform the way we do ordinary, everyday things as individuals and society, delivering wide-ranging economic and social benefits far beyond anything their designers could have dreamt of. And, of course, the Internet now plays an important role in newer GPS applications.

Operational for about 20 years, GPS is now used by over 1 billion people, mostly as a receiver-on-a-chip built into their smart phones. GPS has also raised our expectations: we now demand meter-level positioning capability anytime and anywhere, including indoors. And, inevitably, success brings imitators: GPS-like systems are under development in Russia, Europe, China, Japan, and India.

This talk will focus mostly on the principles behind the operation of GPS and the technologies required to realize a global radio-navigation system based on them.

Speaker's Bio:

Pratap Misra, a member of the first batch of students to graduate from IITK, has worked in the field of navigation satellites for 25 years starting with a project at MIT Lincoln Laboratory to combine measurements from GPS and GLONASS, the Soviet answer to GPS, to improve navigation for civil aviation. He is a coauthor with Professor Per Enge of Stanford University of a widely used graduate-level engineering textbook on GPS.

Misra is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Navigation (ION), which honored him in 2014 with the Kepler Award "for sustained and significant contributions to the development of satellite navigation."

Contact details: 

Dr. Vinay Joseph Ribeiro

Department of Computer Science & Engineering