Engineering for Research Symposium

Third Edition

Towards the Logic of Scientific Discovery

Will AI ever win a Nobel Prize?

Technology has played a major role in scientific breakthroughs, and in recent years artificial intelligence is taking it a step further and raising the bar of scientific research. Are we on course of empowering AI to make scientific discoveries worthy of a Nobel Prize?

Engineering for Research (E4R) is an initiative founded by Thoughtworks to collaborate with research organizations in understanding and solving challenges in the fields of astronomy, biology, epidemiology and robotics. We share our knowledge with the larger community through scholarly publications and creating, and contributing to open source software frameworks. Thoughtworks E4R Symposium is our annual forum where luminaries, academicians, scientists and engineers come together to discuss the role of computer science in accelerating scientific exploration. We hosted the third edition, and the first ever virtual E4R Symposium, on October 10-11 2020.

Scientific discovery process governs how scientists and engineers discover the laws of nature, new materials, and new medicines. Traditionally, these discoveries were made by humans. Now, there is a growing community of scientists and engineers who believe machines can autonomously make discoveries in future. Dr. Ross D. King has demonstrated this possibility with his Adam and Eve Robot Scientists.

In recent years, machine learning and artificial intelligence have disrupted the computing landscape including scientific discovery. To quote Dr. Hiroaki Kitano, “AI systems can transform scientific discoveries into highly efficient practices, thereby enabling us to expand our knowledge in unprecedented ways. Such systems may out-compute all possible hypotheses and may redefine the nature of scientific intuition, hence the scientific discovery process.” He and Dr. King have joined hands with many other experts across scientific disciplines to propose the Nobel-Turing Grand Challenge 2050, where AI should earn a Nobel prize of its own. In this year's Engineering for Research (E4R) Symposium, luminaries shared their vision and insight on this theme.

The Speakers

Ross D. King

Dr. Ross D. King

Turing Fellow, The Alan Turing Institute, UK;

Professor, Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden;

Director of Research, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Cambridge, UK

King is one of the most experienced machine learning researchers in Europe. His main research interest is the interface between computer science and science. He originated the idea of a ‘Robot Scientist’: integrating AI and laboratory robotics to physically implement closed-loop scientific discovery.
His Robot Scientist ‘Adam’ was the first machine to autonomously discover scientific knowledge. HisRobot Scientist ‘Eve’ is currently searching for drugs against neglected tropical diseases, and cancer. This research has been published in top scientific journals, Science, Nature, etc. and has received wide publicity. His other core research interest is DNA computing. He developed the first nondeterministic universal Turing machine, and is now working on ‘DNA supremacy’: a DNA computer that can solve larger NP-complete problems that conventional or quantum computers cannot. He is also very interested in computational economics and aesthetics.
Dr. Hiroaki Kitano

Dr. Hiroaki Kitano

President, Systems Biology Institute;

Professor, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate School;

President & CEO, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.;

CEO, Sony AI Inc./ Executive Vice President, Sony Corporation, Japan

Dr. Kitano received a PhD in computer science from Kyoto University in 1991 for the thesis in machine translation titled "Speech-to-speech translation: a massively parallel memory-based approach". His work includes a broad spectrum of publications on artificial intelligence and systems biology.

Dr. Kitano is known for developing AIBO, Sony’s entertainment robot, and the grand challenge project known as RoboCup, that aims at developing a team of fully autonomous robots that can outperform the World Cup winning team in soccer. He is also a pioneer of systems biology, and has served as a scientific advisor for a number of research institutions and companies, including European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), ALSTOM, and others. He was awarded the IJCAI Computers and Thought Award in 1993 and the Nature Award for Creative Mentoring in Science in 2009.
Dr. Mary-Anne Williams

Dr. Mary-Anne Williams

Distinguished Research Professor, School of Computer Science;

Core Member, Joint Research Centre in Intelligent Systems Membership;

Associate Member, AAI - Advanced Analytics Institute;

Core Member, AAII - Australian Artificial Intelligence Institute

Dr. Williams has a PhD in Computer Science (University of Sydney) and a Master in Laws (University of Edinburgh). She is a leading authority on Data Science and AI with transdisciplinary strengths in Strategic Management, Disruptive Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Computer Science, Autonomous Decision Making, Machine Learning, Robotics, Ethics, IP Law, and Privacy Law.

She has a passion for digital transformation. She established the Innovation and Enterprise Research Lab (aka The Magic Lab) in 2002, which actively engages with researchers and students in the Magic Lab. The research objective of this group is to bring science fiction to reality through the design of intelligent autonomous technologies that can learn and adapt as they interact and work with people.
Dr. Williams is currently working with the United Nations on the impact of AI on Human Rights, Sustainable Development, and Peaces & Security.
Dr. Urbasi Sinha

Dr. Urbasi Sinha

Professor, Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru, India

Dr. Sinha is a faculty member in the Light and Atomic Matter Physics group (LAMP) and now heading the Quantum Information and Computing (QuIC) laboratory at RRI.

The lab specializes in experiments on photonic quantum information processing including quantum computing and quantum communication, primarily using single and entangled photons. She is heading India’s first project on satellite based secure quantum communications (Quantum Experiments using Satellite Technology).

In recognition of her scientific achievements as well as outreach activities, Dr. Sinha was awarded the Homi Bhabha Fellowship in the year 2017 and has been named the recipient of the 2018 ICTP- ICO Gallieno Denardo Award in Optics. She was recently recognised as one of Asia’s Top 100 scientists by the Asian Scientist for the year 2019 and has been awarded the Simon’s Emmy Noether Fellowship at the Perimeter Institute, Canada. In August 2020, shed led the Indian team which won the BRICS Future Skills Challenge on Quantum Technologies 2020, which is a part of the World Skills Competition with competitors from several countries worldwide.
Dr. Benjamin Jantzen

Dr. Benjamin Jantzen

Associate Professor, Virginia Tech, USA

Dr. Jantzen is an Associate Prof. of Philosophy, and of Computer Science (by courtesy). His work is focused primarily on the logic of discovery, specifically the development of algorithms for recognizing similarity between unknown causal structures, the automated identification of novel scientifically salient variables, and applications of these methods to problems of change detection, model validation, and fully automated scientific discovery.
Dr. Jantzen worked in biophysics and fluid dynamics before turning to philosophy, and his work is highly interdisciplinary. Additional research interests include non-representational AI in robotics, the nature, development, and semantics of the number concept and its role in interpretations of quantum mechanics, and design arguments in the philosophy of religion.
Dr. Sanjay Chandrashekharan

Dr. Sanjay Chandrashekharan

Associate Professor, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai;

Adjunct faculty member, Interdisciplinary Program in Educational Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

Dr. Chandrashekharan leads the Learning Sciences Research (LSR) Group at HBCSE. The group’s work draws on recent theories of cognition to build and test novel computational media for learning science, technology and mathematics. These design studies seek to contribute to the development of new approaches to learning and discovery, as well as novel theoretical models of higher order cognition.
He has been published widely in the areas of distributed and embodied cognition, as well as new computational media for learning and discovery. He is an Associate Editor of the journal IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies.
Dr. Abhishek Kumar Singh

Dr. Abhishek Kumar Singh

Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India

Dr. Singh leads the Materials Informatics Initiative of IISc (MI3). The group designs materials for target applications using data-driven methods. They established India’s first computational materials database aNANt (, currently the world's largest database of 2D materials. He did his PhD from the Institute of Materials Research, Tohoku University, Japan. He was a JSPS Postdoctoral fellow. He has also worked as post doctoral research associate at University of California Santa Barbara, and Rice University, Houston, USA.
Dr. Singh has published ~150 papers. His work has received ~5500 citations and his current h-index is 42. He is a recipient of Materials Research Society of India Medal in 2014, Distinguished Lectureship Award of Chemical Society of Japan in 2020 and JSPS invitation fellowship 2020.
Dr. Vikram Jamwal

Dr. Vikram Jamwal

Principal Scientist at TCS Research, India

In the speaker's words:Works as a principal scientistLeading the effortsAt TCSIn creativityComputational and humaneR&D
In the science of computers, PhDFrom the Bombay IITAnd previous stints as an executive designAt C&GAnd as a scientistAt NCST
Has delved in past in performing artsPoetry, dramatics, speech, song, visual arts, et al.Now devotes all his timePonderingCan machines creativelyExpress at all?
Dr. Peter Clark

Dr. Peter Clark

Senior Research Manager, Allen Institute of AI, US

Dr. Clark leads the Aristo Project at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2). His work focuses on natural language processing, machine reasoning, and world knowledge, and the interplay between these three areas.
The Aristo Project aims to build systems that demonstrate a deep understanding of the world, integrating technologies for reading, learning, reasoning, and explanation.
Prof. Sundar Sarukkai

Prof. Sundar Sarukkai

Founder, Barefoot Philosophers

Sundar Sarukkai is trained in physics and philosophy, and his work is primarily in the philosophy of natural and social sciences. He is the author of Translating the World: Science and Language, Philosophy of Symmetry, Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science, What is Science? and two books co-authored with Gopal Guru – The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory and most recently Experience, Caste and the Everyday Social. His book titled JRD Tata and the Ethics of Philanthropy was published in July 2020. He is the Co-Chief Editor of the Springer Handbook of Logical Thought in India, the Series Editor for the Science and Technology Studies Series, Routledge and editorial advisory member of Leonardo as well as Marg.
Prof. Sarukkai was a professor of philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies till 2019 and was the Founder-Director of the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities where he set up an innovative interdisciplinary postgraduate program. He has been actively taking philosophy to different communities and places, conducting philosophy workshops for children and bringing philosophy to the public through his writing in the media. His forthcoming book Philosophy for Children will be published in English and other languages.
Rebecca Parsons

Rebecca Parsons

Chief Technology Officer, Thoughtworks

Rebecca's technical experience includes leading the creation of large-scale distributed applications and the integration of disparate systems. Apart from her passion for deep technology, she is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in the technology industry. Committed to increasing the number of women in coding and STEM fields, Rebecca has served on the board of CodeChix, acted as advisor to Women Who Code, and is on the Board of Trustees for She was also chairwoman on the Agile Alliance Board of Directors for four years.
Rebecca is a frequent speaker at industry events including Collision Conference, Web Summit, YOW!, Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. In 2018 she was honoured with the prestigious Technical Leadership Abie Award by, for her contributions to the technology industry. She is also co-author of technical books such as “Domain-Specific Languages,” “The Thoughtworks Anthology,” and “Building Evolutionary Architectures.”
Sameer Soman

Sameer Soman

Managing Director, Thoughtworks India

In a nutshell, Sameer’s passions lie in building a diversified, vibrant talent force, inspiring Thoughtworks’ next generation of leadership and constantly creating avenues to upgrade the organization’s capability.
Sameer has over 2 decades of experience and his time at Thoughtworks has seen him play key roles in crafting the company’s innovative approach that delivers custom software solutions to global enterprises. In his current role as Managing Director for Thoughtworks India, he collaborates with Thoughtworks’ different business groups to develop advanced models of business transformation for clients.
Sameer's consultative experience in both business and technical capacities, while immersed in various functional domains ensures that he is able to provide valuable mentoring for entrepreneurs when it comes to growth strategy planning. Additionally, he holds many leadership positions, including President of the Software Exporters Association of Pune (SEAP) and EC member of MCCI.
Chhaya Yadav

Chhaya Yadav

Delivery Partner, Engineering for Research, Thoughtworks

Chhaya leverages her two decades of experience as a Delivery Partner for the Engineering for Research practice, responsible for collaborations with research institutes and academia.
With a passion for exploration and a firm belief that good software can lead to good science, she focuses on building high performance teams that can push the boundaries of computational science. Speeding scientific discoveries could in turn provide a reverse flow of cutting edge technology innovations in the enterprise space.
With a dual degree in Mathematics and Statistics, and apart from being an entrepreneur, Chhaya has donned the roles of Program Manager and Agile Coach among others.
Pooja Arora

Pooja Arora

Bioinformatician, Lead Consultant, Thoughtworks

A product thinker with over decade of industry experience, Pooja loves to navigate through ambiguity to solve customer problems. In the past couple of years she has donned multiple hats of being a business analyst, product owner and researcher. She is a Bioinformatician by education and Business Analyst/Product Owner by experience.Currently, she is applying her industry experience along with her Bioinformatics domain knowledge in solving complex problems in life-sciences research under Engineering for Research(E4R) practice. Her current interest lies in exploring the space of open source drug discovery using various bioinformatics and AI driven approaches.
Dave Elliman

Dave Elliman

Global Head of Technology, Thoughtworks

Dave has 35 years of professional technical experience in a wide variety of industries through consulting as well as specialization in banking, finance, media and software methods tooling.
He is deeply immersed in technology and it's impact on business and society - from development through architecture, analytics, infrastructure, emergent ideas, prototyping and large scale program management. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and has significant management experience of teams, programs, global initiatives, and governance.
Dave advises board C-suites and executive committees on how lean enterprise and technical strategic thinking can co-exist, as well as advising on cloud migration, data analytics and security. Dave also sits on technology advisory groups for Government, independent companies, funded startups as well as standards bodies.
Harshal Hayatnagarkar

Harshal Hayatnagarkar

Computer Scientist, Engineering for Research, Thoughtworks

Harshal has around two decades of experience in industrial and academic research and development. He has worked on various problems such as modeling and simulation of human behaviour, simulation of disaster response, and development of model-driven control systems for large scientific apparatus. His research interests include complex systems, human-centric systems, modeling & simulation of social dynamics, domain-specific languages & compiler construction, software engineering, data visualization, knowledge representation, control systems, and distributed computing.
He is the organizer of the E4R Symposium.

Past Editions

2019: Science and Engineering of Complex Systems

In the second edition of Thoughtworks E4R Symposium, we focused on the need and approaches to understand and compute complex systems. Discussions centered on how the noble missions of grand exploration and big science need engineering excellence to become a reality.

2018: The Fourth Paradigm of Science

Thoughtworks Engineering for Research team organized the first edition of E4R Symposium in 2018. The forum of scientists, researchers, engineers and technologists across scientific disciplines delved into the three important trends disrupting the field of Computational Science: Data Deluge, Artificial Intelligence, and Complex Modeling & Simulation.

Thoughtworks E4R

Thoughtworks Engineering for Research (E4R) is our initiative to apply computational methods to advance research in the scientific disciplines such as astronomy, physiology, genomics, economics, and disaster response in societies, but not limited to these. With this practice, Thoughtworks is committed to the 14th Engineering Grand Challenge.


Our approach is built upon over 25 years of hands-on experience, paired with our deep technical expertise in the areas that are core to every enterprise’s technology strategy.


The intent is to build a community working exclusively with research organizations, and build tools for scientific exploration, that will enable us to discover patterns, frameworks and computer science of the third horizon.