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  • Katherine Hollingsworth

Remembering Ken Roberts, a Friend and Colleague

Ken Roberts

Materials Design and the simulation community lost a great friend and colleague recently. Ken Roberts passed away suddenly at home in late February 2024. Ken, who worked at Materials Design since 2018, is survived by his wife and their two daughters.

Ken had an immensely positive impact wherever he went and with whatever he did. We want to commemorate here in a few words and pictures something of Ken's professional life and interests at Materials Design and elsewhere in his career. There is much more that can and will be said and remembered by those that knew and worked with Ken during his life.In 1990, Ken was one of the young technical support employees of a start-up simulation company. He was based at the time in New Jersey and as a support scientist, Ken helped pharmaceutical companies recognize the value of molecular simulation. This was despite the fact that Ken's first degree was in electrical engineering and his master's degree was in computer science. Ken was always adaptable and technically gifted, and he transitioned to work in solid state chemistry, where among many other projects, he developed the three-dimensional display of space group symmetry symbols that was a unique part of the Insight II computational user environment. In a world of rapid development and start-up company pressures, Ken's knowledge of mathematics and linear algebra enabled him to do what many other programmers could not. Ken had no formal training in chemistry, but he learned rapidly and readily kept up with those with years of training in the field.

Moving on from that company, Ken worked in diverse roles in several companies over the years, innovating in every role. Ken was involved in computing in hospitals for the pioneering medical information company, Azron. Ken worked in networking, and for the San Diego based company, SmartDraw. In 2018 Ken joined Materials Design and assumed primary responsibility for many aspects of the company's activities, including the technology of a reorganized website, various forms of automation making everyone's work easier, and managing Materials Design's IT processes. Ken was always developing his skill set, he wrote a Mac-based modeling program in the early 1990s (back when Mac machines were Motorola-based), he programmed Windows applications and databases for many years, and just recently was pursuing course work in machine learning.Everyone at Materials Design feels privileged to have had the opportunity to have worked with Ken. He helped each and every one of us on innumerable occasions. If Ken saw something that needed doing, he did it.Ken was a great friend and colleague and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to his family as they heal and mourn his unexpected loss.




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