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Liquid-handling robots donated by Thermos Fisher to Mahshid Ahmadi's lab.

Synthesis Robots Join UT Lab Through Thermo Fisher Donation

Translational Artificial Intelligence has been an area of great interest for Thermo Fisher, an American supplier of analytical instruments, life science solutions, specialty diagnostics, laboratory, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology services.

When the company wanted a chance to evaluate translational AI approaches that are being used for synthesis of materials for automated laboratories, one name immediately came to mind – Mahshid Ahmadi.

An assistant professor in the University of Tennessee’s Department of Material Science and Engineering, Ahmadi’s lab harnesses the power of automated synthesis to revolutionize the way to approach the world’s energy challenges.

Ahmadi and Weston Fulton Professor Sergei Kalinin have collaborated with representatives from the Thermo Fisher on different projects over the years.

The relationship led to Thermo Fisher donating two liquid-handling robots to UT. The liquid-handling systems, with accessories, have an estimated worth several hundred thousand dollars. Although popular in the field of biology and organic chemistry, autonomous robots are not as popular in material science and material engineering. Ahmadi’s lab will now have three total robots.

The donation of liquid-handling robots is the first ever made to a university or college by the biosciences division at Thermo Fisher.

“Through this donation, I am going to have maybe one of the first academic labs which is fully equipped with robots for synthesis of materials,” Ahmadi said. “That is really great for UT, and it gives students access to a new generation of science. We are very excited and grateful to get this opportunity.”

Donations from companies like Thermo Fisher are essential to help UT students and faculty perform cutting-edge research in the lab and accelerate the rates to discover and design new materials.

Both new robots have arrived and been installed in Ahmadi’s fully automated lab. Her students are familiarizing themselves with the systems and eager to begin experimentation.

“This donation is going to benefit our graduate and undergraduate students by making them hands on and familiar with the state-of-the-art instruments that otherwise are really difficult to get experience with,” Ahmadi said. “It’s really going to benefit our entire community as well. There is so much potential that will be unlocked through the generosity of Thermo Fisher.”


Rhiannon Potkey (865-974-0683,