Google is well known for its collegiate roots, hatched as it was by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University back in the late 1990s.
So it's only fitting that PageRank, the defining algorithm that set Google apart from Overture, Yahoo, Microsoft and many others to date, is being applied at another university.
However, rather than using the technology to create a labyrinthine network of links to Websites, a Washington State University associate professor has adapted PageRank for a software program that determines molecular shapes and chemical reactions.
As Washington State Magazine first reported, Aurora Clark, the associate professor used PageRank to build moleculaRnetworks, which looks at hydrogen bonds in water.
The magazine noted Clark and her colleagues believed interactions between molecules are a lot like links between Web pages.
Clark explains it herself some more here:
This isn't skunkworks; it's got funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Basic Energy Sciences.
And with good reason. The end game is that researchers can use the molecule software to design drugs, investigate the roles of misfolded proteins in disease and analyze radioactive pollutants, Clark told the magazine.
Now that's research anyone can get behind. Interestingly, Google is also doing a lot of research in its Google X Labs. Certainly, the Solve for X program is looking at some altruistic endeavors.
While they include plays to address water shortages and drug delivery, I'm quite sure they don't include leveraging PageRank.