When I speak with many of you at the events I attend, I often hear a desire for more interdisciplinary interactions outside of your laboratories, departments, and classrooms. I also receive requests for advice on how to go about initiating and building interdisciplinary collaborations, and questions on what the future holds for interdisciplinarity at MIT. This is a topic close to my heart, as I have carried out interdisciplinary research for almost 20 years focused on the multiscale mechanics of musculoskeletal and exoskeletal tissues.
MIT maintains leadership in the classical disciplines (academic departments), which are simultaneously overlaid by a dense “matrix” of more than 55 cross-cutting interdisciplinary research centers, laboratories, curricular and co-curricular programs. Opportunities for students include:
These structures have created a rich internal ecosystem which fosters the exchange of ideas and expertise across disciplinary boundaries, enabling many exciting and significant discoveries to take place at MIT over the last century. Externally, MIT is currently engaged in international collaborations with The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and The MIT-Russia Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (SIST), both of which are exploring new interdisciplinary organizational structures and curriculum. MIT students are involved in a variety of ways in these collaborations, for example, through the MIT-SUTD Dual Masters Programme and the MIT Skoltech Innovation Workshop.
The enhancement of interdisciplinary interactions in the graduate community is a key direction for my office, the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education or ODGE. We have amplified support in this area, for example by co-sponsoring the MIT Ideas Global Challenge, the MIT-Imperial Global Fellows Program, the MIT China Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, MIT TechLink and the Hugh Hampton Young Graduate Fellowships.
As MIT considers its future directions in addressing the complex global challenges of the 21st century – health care, poverty, security, environment, energy, manufacturing, for example – the relationships between scientific, technical and socioeconomic, political and ethical aspects of research will be critical. Hence, the importance of connecting science and engineering with the humanities, arts, social sciences, architecture and planning will be increasingly important and beneficial. One current example of such a collaboration is a series of interdisciplinary integrative technology and policy reports released by the MIT Energy Initiative which draw upon faculty from science, engineering, economics, and management. Another successful example is the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program within the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences in which students from all schools participate and are exposed to language, culture, economics, politics, and history of the country where they will carry out research.
I plan to highlight student involvement in interdisciplinary research, other educational topics, opportunities (for example, fellowships, awards, professional development, international, etc.), virtual challenges, and my activities as Dean on my new facebook page and invite you to “like” my page here: http://bit.ly/ChristineOrtiz. I will be maintaining and posting to the page myself. Don’t worry -- “liking” is different from “friending” and your profile will not give me access to any of your personal information! It will only allow you to see my posts in your news feed. I also encourage you to contact me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) with ideas and thoughts on this topic, to explore areas that ODGE and MIT might develop and support.
I wish you a wonderful upcoming holiday season and rest of the semester.
Dean for Graduate Education
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Opportunities for Students to Engage in Interdisciplinary Interactions and Activities
Student - Based
Academic and Curricular
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