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Science Updates

Lee-Ping Wang stepping down from a leadership role

Posted on 22 Jul 2020 by Karmen Condic-Jurkic

From August 1, the Open Force Field Initiative will undergo a change in the leadership team, as Lee-Ping Wang has decided to step down from his role as an OpenFF primary investigator. This not a farewell, but a change of roles and Dr. Wang will remain actively involved in OpenFF research efforts as a co-investigator. The Open Force Field Initiative owes a great deal of its success to the work done by Dr. Wang and his lab members. His ForceBalance software package sits at the heart of the OpenFF force field optimization infrastructure, and torsiondrive, developed by Yudong Qiu, is used to generate QM torsion profiles datasets used in force field parameterization. But, his software contributions are only a small fraction of the time, effort and experience Dr. Wang has invested to build the Open Force Field Initiative and make this collaborative project so productive and successful. Dr. Wang is now seeking a way to free up more time to explore some new and exciting research directions, which is the main motivation behind his decision to step down from the leadership role.

We at the Open Force Field Initiative would like to use this opportunity to publicly thank Dr. Wang and his lab members for everything they have done for the project and team, it is much appreciated and we are looking forward to our continuing collaboration. More than anything, we wish Dr. Wang a lot of success as he moves to some new and exciting challenges, and we can’t wait to see what he will come up with next!

Read more about the motivation behind Dr. Wang’s decision in his letter below:

Dear all,

I’m writing to announce my intent to step down from my role as an OpenFF primary investigator effective August 1, 2020 though I plan to continue to be involved as a co-investigator. I want to emphasize how much I enjoyed participating in our shared science, and I’m happy that OpenFF has grown into a highly productive collaboration in the past two years.

Although building open force fields and open software for creating force fields is one of my core interests, I’ve found that that there isn’t enough time to do all the things that I’m interested in, and sometimes that involves making difficult choices. I was recently granted tenure at UC Davis, which made me think about what I wanted to achieve in research in the long term. In addition to the basic choice of what science I should focus on in the next several years, there were two other contributing factors: (1) My role in OpenFF has largely involved using existing methods and software (ForceBalance, TorsionDrive, geomeTRIC), not the development of fundamentally new methods. (2) I anticipate that the ongoing plans to create an independent entity, such as a nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, may involve increased time commitments away from research for the leadership team.

My ideal future role in OpenFF could be described as a “co-investigator”: we would continue to collaborate on scientific problems of shared interest and write papers together, and there would be the possibility of OpenFF funding for research carried out in my group. On the other hand, I would not have a leading role in OpenFF decision-making, such as deciding how funding is allocated or voting on the governing board. But perhaps more importantly, this new role would reduce the unwritten expectations of leadership that had driven most of my non-science time commitments.

I plan for the change in my role to occur on a ~1 year timescale, which would minimize the impacts on OpenFF and provide time for bringing on new personnel to fill my role. I plan to faithfully continue the research my group is involved in, including but not limited to finishing the Parsley paper and developing the version 2.0 “Sage” release of the force field. The process should involve a way for Hyesu Jang, my graduate student supported by OpenFF through Dec 2020, to finish her assigned projects and publish them as part of her Ph.D. I have discussed with Hyesu before sending this message and she is largely supportive of my choice given that she is able to finish the projects she started.

My reasons for making this choice were not due to any personal or professional disagreements with anyone in the collaboration. I have found our interactions to be strongly positive and constructive. The entire OpenFF group, including the PIs, have been incredibly supportive to me in my pre-tenure career. I hope that we’ll continue to have good interactions going forward including collaborations on force fields, though not with me as a leading member of the OpenFF Consortium and Initiative.

Lee-Ping Wang