Aziz Abu-SalehThe Chemical Abstracts Service has named UWindsor post-doctoral researcher Aziz Abu-Saleh one of its 2024 Future Leaders.

Drug design earns honour for computational chemist

Your next treatment for anxiety or cancer may be residing right now on Aziz Abu-Saleh’s computer.

As a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of professor John Trant, Dr. Abu-Saleh specializes in computational chemistry, leveraging advanced computer modeling techniques and machine learning to design drugs targeting a range of health issues, including anxiety, cancer, COVID-19, and obesity.

“My research involves computer modelling of biological systems to solve challenging problems,” he says. “We want to target those health issues without affecting other functions.”

The computer models simulate real-world effects of his designs. Promising solutions are handed off to partners to synthesize the materials, test them, and then provide feedback for further refinement.

His work has won him notice from the Chemical Abstracts Service, a division of the American Chemical Society specializing in scientific knowledge management, which named Abu-Saleh one of this year’s 35 CAS Future Leaders. The program provides early-career scientists with leadership training and connection to peers from around the world.

Program director Peter Carlton hailed participants as a diverse group from 13 countries.

“From hundreds of applicants, we mindfully select individuals who are accomplished scientists and also demonstrate leadership in their communities — improving people’s lives in various ways,” he said.

Dr. Trant calls Abu-Saleh an “outstandingly creative and productive scientist,” but says more importantly: “he’s a great colleague who goes out of his way to support the graduate students, undergrads, and other postdocs in the group.

“This is why his selection is so apt: he will be a great leader in chemistry.”

The CAS Future Leaders will take the next steps in their leadership journeys this August in Columbus, Ohio, and Denver, with an opportunity to present their research and participate in professional and leadership development courses. They have already begun forming connections through social media, Abu-Saleh says.

“I believe that this opportunity will enable me to cultivate a robust professional network, connecting with peers and pioneering leaders in the field,” he says.” This aligns perfectly with my career goal of establishing a research lab where I can mentor the next generation of scientists, contributing to the advancement of science and medicine.”

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