By: Caitlin Anderson

The School of Material Science and Engineering is proud to announce that our very own faculty member, Dr. Rampi Ramprasad, was recently named a Regents’ Entrepreneur by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents. The USG Board of Regents, a governing body that serves as the public trust to ensure all USG schools are fulfilling their educational, service, and research responsibilities to the state and people of Georgia, honored 12 Georgia Tech faculty members across the entire campus. As a Regents’ Entrepreneur, Dr. Ramprasad is being recognized for his reputation as an innovator, his successful translation of research into a commercial venture, and his positive commercial impact on the community.

Dr. Ramprasad recently sat down to discuss both the award and the process of turning his research into a commercial success via the company Matmerize. “I’m very pleased to have this recognition,” Dr. Ramprasad said before praising both Georgia Tech and the USG for their support of translational research. Translational research, he explained, is about bridging the gap between scientific inquiry in academia and its tangible societal impact within commercial domains.

The research that sparked this company and led to his USG recognition is rooted in virtual materials discovery. Using machine learning and AI algorithms, Dr. Ramprasad’s group designs polymers that meet application-specific performance requirements before they are created and tested in the physical lab, thus shortening materials development cycles. His proprietary and patented algorithms efficiently search the space of infinite possibilities and identify suitable candidates for potential applications. He described it as an “efficient and high fidelity” way of using emergent AI technology to quickly cycle through numerous potential polymers to identify viable candidates that can be recommended to his collaborators for testing. 

As the conversation turned to the work, time, and process of turning research into a successful company, it became evident why Dr. Ramprasad is so passionate about the support he has received from Georgia Tech and the USG. The success of Matmerize wasn’t overnight. Dr. Ramprasad explained that the entire process has taken multiple years and came out of several published research papers, patents and software. The “market pull” that Dr. Ramprasad experienced, in terms of interest shown by several companies in his work, catalyzed the formation of his own startup company, Matmerize. With the support of the MSE school (including the former chair, Naresh Thadhani, and the current chair, Natalie Stingelin), Georgia Tech’s VentureLab (including Jon Goldman), the Georgia Research Alliance (through seed funding and guidance from Senior Advisor Bill Midgette), and the Georgia Tech Office of Technology Licensing, Dr. Ramprasad was able to translate his ideas and IP to the commercial space. 

The Matmerize team is predominantly made up of highly talented Georgia Tech students and postdocs.

Currently, the main product of Matmerize is an industry-grade and cloud-based AI platform to efficiently design and develop polymers, cleverly called PolymRize, which first went “live” in 2021. While the journey has been long and intense, what stands out to Dr. Ramprasad is the pure joy of bringing Matmerize this far, ably supported by the top-notch brain trust of his team. If we view the field as a spectrum, Dr. Ramprasad notes that he’s spent most of his career so far focusing on the academic and scientific research side, trying to fill that gap with the research and ideas that he’s created. With each step in the spectrum representing an entire field of work with its own moving parts and bodies of knowledge, he explains that he has found a lot of pleasure and happiness in moving from strictly research to both research and application. This happiness was evident in his entire demeanor as he spoke about being able to see his research come to life through the hard work of his collaborators and their social and commercial success.

Despite receiving such an honor, Dr. Ramprasad is thinking about what comes next.  He noted that he got into this field at the beginning of the boom of emergent AI technologies and is one of the beneficiaries of the social and commercial popularity of the movement. He intends to continue to ride this AI wave. He’s currently moving into language and beyond language AI models to leverage the viability of bringing these into the materials space. With plans to continue to develop both the products and the commercialization of Matmerize, too, it's easy to understand why the USG Board of Regents honored the entrepreneurial work that Dr. Ramprasad is doing. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Rampi Ramprasad on being named a Regents’ Entrepreneur!