Shekhar Garde, Ph.D.

Professor and Department Head,
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

From Molecules to Moviemaking: Adventures of a Chemical and Biological Engineer

"If only one idea had to be passed to the next generation, it is the concept of atoms and molecules", argued Richard Feynman in his famous Lectures in Physics. The Molecularium Project originated from our motivation to contribute to attracting the next generation of children to science and engineering careers. An important component of the project are two animation movies in which entertaining atomic characters take the audiences on a journey of the atomic world, looking for the secret of life on planet earth, getting lost and finding their way again, and learning about atoms and molecules, and about the world they make. Behind the scenes, high performance computing is the hero of the story, making possible numerous scientifically accurate molecular simulations of complex environments, as well as rendering them through exciting visuals on a large format screen. I will tell the story of the atomic characters, of the science behind it, and of the HPC that made it possible.


Dr. Shekhar Garde is the Elaine and Jack Parker Chaired Professor and Head of Rensselaer's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. He received his BS (University of Bombay, 1992) and Ph.D. (U. Delaware, 1997) degrees in Chemical Engineering. He received the prestigious Director's post-doctoral fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he performed research from 1997 to 1999. He Joined Rensselaer as an Assistant Professor in 1999. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2004 and to Full Professor in 2006. He was appointed Parker Chaired Professor in 2006 and as the Head of Chemical and Biological Engineering Department in 2007.

His research focuses broadly on understanding the role of water in biological structure-function, and specifically on hydration and water-mediated interactions using statistical mechanical theory and molecular modeling and simulation tools. He has published ~80 peer-reviewed papers in leading scientific journals which have been cited over 3200 times. He has received several awards including the prestigious CAREER Award by the US National Science Foundation (2001), School of Engineering Research Award (2003), Rensselaer Early Career Award (2004), and most recently the 2011 Robert W. Vaughan Lecturership at California Institute of Technology. Garde is also one of the leaders of the one-of-a-kind animation movie project called Molecularium, which aims to excite the next generation about the world of atoms and molecules. He has pioneered integration of large-scale molecular dynamics simulations into Disney-Pixar style animation world. He is an executive producer of the Molecularium I-MAX/3-D movies – Molecules to the MAX, which are currently being distributed nationwide. In 2011 he was honored with the Explore~Imagine~Discover Award by the Children's Museum of Science and Technology, in the Capital District, NY.

Workshop Program
updated: 2011-10-19