Kempner Institute’s Marinka Zitnik Wins Prestigious NSF CAREER Award

April 29, 2024

Award will Support Research on Artificial Intelligence that can Analyze Complex Networks of Data

Marinka Zitnik, associate faculty member at the Kempner Institute, has received an NSF CAREER award for early-career researchers with exceptional promise.

Cambridge, MA– Marinka Zitnik, an associate faculty member at the Kempner Institute and Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, has been awarded the prestigious NSF CAREER award for her project entitled “Geometric Deep Learning to Facilitate Algorithmic and Scientific Advances in Therapeutics.”  The award is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) CAREER Program, aimed at supporting early-career faculty who show exceptional promise as researchers and academic role models.

Dr. Zitnik’s work advances our understanding of artificial intelligence, including geometric deep learning, multimodal learning, knowledge graphs, and foundation models. By developing innovative ways of using AI, and developing new capabilities of machine learning technology, Zitnik and her team advance the state-of-the-art of AI, with applications in the fields of medicine and therapeutic design. 

Zitnik’s NSF-funded project will develop geometric deep learning methods to analyze and understand vast troves of data that form networks. In particular, this new AI method will aim to understand the varied structures of the molecules and proteins (of which there are an estimated trillion trillion trillion), as well as to analyze the complicated ways that such molecules and proteins interact. Zitnik and her team will develop AI methods that aggregate and analyze billions of molecular observations, creating molecular search engines capable of identifying useful molecules for specific purposes, with important applications for quicker and cheaper drug discovery.  

In addition to her role as Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School and Associate Faculty at the Kempner Institute, Dr. Zitnik is an Associate Member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, co-founder of Therapeutics Data Commons, and faculty lead of the AI4Science initiative. She has published extensively at top ML venues, such as NeurIPS, ICLR, and ICML, and in leading scientific journals, including Nature, Nature Methods, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

About the Kempner

The Kempner Institute seeks to understand the basis of intelligence in natural and artificial systems by recruiting and training future generations of researchers to study intelligence from biological, cognitive, engineering, and computational perspectives. Its bold premise is that the fields of natural and artificial intelligence are intimately interconnected; the next generation of artificial intelligence (AI) will require the same principles that our brains use for fast, flexible natural reasoning, and understanding how our brains compute and reason can be elucidated by theories developed for AI. Join the Kempner mailing list to learn more, and to receive updates and news.


Deborah Apsel Lang | (617) 495-7993 |