Meet the Researcher: Laura Weiler

Laura WeilerWhat is the focus of your faculty-mentored research?
The focus of my faculty-mentored research is the exploration of what machine learning can do for wavefunction-based methods in quantum chemistry. Simulating real systems is a big task, and there’s a lot of interest to see how machine learning can push the boundaries of what’s currently possible given resource constraints.

Tell us about the broad impact it has/could have.
Experimentalists often benefit from simulations describing detail which experiment cannot yet access. However, experimentalists work on average with systems many times larger and more complex than what can be accurately simulated on a computer. Due to their accuracy relative to lower-order methods, wavefunction-based methods are often used for these simulations. By improving efficiency in wavefunction-based algorithms via machine learning, we can help contribute to more robust explanations for experimentalists.

What do you love most about conducting research with faculty mentors?
What I love most about conducting research with my faculty mentor, Dr. James Shepherd, is that I get to be a part of a community through his research group. Both Dr. Shepherd’s group, and the greater electronic-structure theory community have provided support and encouragement that has been invaluable to my academic career. I think this sense of community is really essential for students.

What do you like to do when you’re not busy with school?
My favorite thing to do when I’m not busy with school is to cook for my friends. The reality is that I’m usually busy with school!

Favorite things to do in IC?
Some of my favorite things to do in Iowa City are going to see movies at Film Scene and taking walks by the river or at Hickory Hill park.

Laura Weiler is a third-year student working toward a bachelor of arts degree in physics and bachelor of science degree in computer science, with a minor in philosophy. She is a recipient of the of the 2021 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award from the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates. This award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in scholarly investigation, artistic creation, or performance by undergraduates at the UI.