MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XIX No. 5
March / April 2007
The Saga of the Struggle for Survival
of the Faculty Newsletter
The Management of Change: Institute Facing Key Issues in the Immediate Future
The More Things Change
the More They Stay the Same
Getting More Learning
out of Lecture and Recitation Time
Why Diversity Matters
The Martin Luther King, Jr.
Visiting Professor Program
Desired End State: Reaching the Goal
MLK, MIT, and Me: A Personal Essay
Recruiting Underrepresented
Minority Students to MIT
Filling the Pipeline
Faith vs. Fact in the Pursuit
of Fairness at MIT
Ode to William Wells
Stephen M. Meyer
CMI – A Bold Experiment
in International Partnership
Response to Prof. Sussman's Call
for Interdisciplinary Research
Appreciation for Special Edition
Faculty Newsletter
Cutting the Pie of Undergraduate Education
Getfit@mit with the FNL
Underrepresented Minorities at MIT
MIT Faculty:
Women and Underrepresented Minorities
Printable Version


Response to Prof. Sussman's Call
for Interdisciplinary Research

Dear Gerry,

After reading your contribution to the February 2007 special edition of the MIT Faculty Newsletter devoted to responses to the report of the Task Force on the UG Educational Commons, I wanted to let you know that I fully agree with your comments.  Interdisciplinary research (IDR) is clearly the wave of the future, and preparing MIT undergraduate students for IDR must become much more important.

I'm also an MIT alumnus (1965, Course 18) who has worked in nuclear arms control and the formation of large research partnerships – the most recent being the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center, led by Cleveland Clinic and seeded by a $60 million grant from Ohio's Third Frontier program, the single largest grant ever awarded to Cleveland Clinic.  So I have first-hand experience with interdisciplinary research that crosses the traditional boundaries to which you allude when discussing MIT's Schools and departments. 

For those members of the MIT faculty who don't know much about David Botstein, I would have liked you to mention that he taught at MIT during 1967-1988 and currently is director of the interdisciplinary Lewis*-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, having replaced the founding director (Shirley Tilghman, now Princeton's president) a few years ago.  And as you state, many of the themes in Botstein's 2004 Science paper are being translated into Princeton's UG curriculum. 

The opportunity costs are large when considering the MIT Task Force lack of focus on the increasing significance of IDR and how a boldly revised UG curriculum might better prepare students to undertake IDR activities.  MIT has no lack of IDR activities and probably is one of the world leaders in forging ahead in these new research pathways.  But much-improved educational preparation for UG students would appear to be consistent with burgeoning IDR initiatives. 

Perhaps Susan Hockfield needs to speak with Shirley Tilghman in the near future so that MIT can learn from Princeton's initiatives through this type of dialogue between two women university presidents, both of whom are life scientists.  Dr. Hockfield will be joining us April 30th as our MIT Club of Cleveland celebrates its 100th anniversary, so we might convey this suggestion to her directly at that time.

Thanks -- Barry

Barry J. Smernoff, PhD
AlphaOmega Collaboration LLC

*Peter B. Lewis is the 1955 Princeton alumnus who gave $35 million to establish this new Institute.


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