Nanotechnology Now





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Top Scientists Promote Innovative, Multi-Disciplinary Global Problem-Solving Strategies

Shown here are 1) Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a recipient of the National Science Board's prestigious Vannevar Bush Award; and 2) William Bialek, the John Archibald/Battelle professor in physics at Princeton University and winner of the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.

Credit: Shirley Ann Jackson photo by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/McCarty William Bialek photo by Denise Applewood.
Shown here are 1) Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a recipient of the National Science Board's prestigious Vannevar Bush Award; and 2) William Bialek, the John Archibald/Battelle professor in physics at Princeton University and winner of the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.

Credit: Shirley Ann Jackson photo by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/McCarty William Bialek photo by Denise Applewood.

Abstract:
How can we use science to help solve the daunting catalogue of trans-border health, energy and quality-of-life challenges confronting our globalized, "flattened" world? By developing scientific and technological techniques that transcend disciplinary boundaries, reflect diverse perspectives, and incorporate the contributions of traditionally underrepresented groups.

Top Scientists Promote Innovative, Multi-Disciplinary Global Problem-Solving Strategies

Arlington, VA | Posted on December 12th, 2007

So said Shirley Ann Jackson to hundreds of the nation's top scientists at the opening symposium of the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 1, 2007. Jackson is president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a recipient of the National Science Board's prestigious Vannevar Bush Award.

The symposium also featured a presentation by William Bialek that focused on techniques for training the next generation of scientists to think across disciplines. Bialek is the John Archibald/Battelle Professor in physics at Princeton University and winner of the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.

Jackson issued a sweeping call for "diversity in its very broadest sense--diversity-enhanced scientific discovery and technological innovation, and diversity-enhanced education. Making progress in human health and in other arenas will require sustained and attentive leadership toward employment of diversity among scientists of every stripe."

Jackson supported her call for diversity by citing many new, successful strategies to global challenges that are being addressed by collaborations between diverse, multidisciplinary scientists and original, iconoclastic thinkers. Some examples:

* The development of new pharmaceuticals to treat overlooked diseases common in developing countries by OneWorld Health--the United States' first non-profit pharmaceutical company. (Only about 3 percent of all research and development is directed towards diseases of developing nations, which account for 90 percent of the world's diseases.)

* OneWorld's many high-impact successes include helping to prove the effectiveness of a new antibiotic treatment for Visceral Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease that affects 1.5 million people around the world and kills 200,000 people annually, primarily in India, Banglasdesh, Sudan, Brazil and Nepal. OneWorld's achievements have resulted from the willingness of the organization's founder, Victoria Hale, to challenge the traditional assumption that it is not cost-effective to develop drug treatments for "orphan diseases," and to apply her varied experience in the private and regulatory sectors to the non-profit sector.

* The discovery by a cross-disciplinary team of chemists, biologists, immunologists and oceanographers of the biochemical chain reaction of events that enables a blue-green tropical algae called L. majuscule to produce a toxin known as curacin A, which is a leading anti-cancer drug candidate. This discovery could help lead to the development of a next-generation cancer drug.

* The development of sensors and smart materials from nanotechnology techniques that draw on physics, materials science, interface and colloid science, device physics and other fields. These sensors and smart materials have a myriad of applications, including improving oil and gas recovery. For example, they help detect leaks in pipelines and then heal those leaks.

* The production of a toxic-free "paper battery" that is composed of more than 90 percent cellulose, and so can be used to power implantable medical equipment. This remarkable battery resulted from a fortuitous chance meeting at Rensselaer's Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies of resident postdoctoral students from three different labs focusing on biopolymers, nanotubes and electronics respectively.

Jackson also cited curriculum changes at RPI that are designed to extend students' experiences and outlook. For example, Jackson said, "we are working to assure that the vast percentage of our undergraduate students have research experience before they graduate. And, we are securing opportunities for every undergraduate to study abroad. We have made biology a requirement for an engineering degree, and we are considering making international experience a requirement, as well."

Complementing Jackson's overarching tribute to diversity and multidisciplinary approaches was Bialek's presentation, which provided a focused description of a novel Princeton program designed to break barriers between discipline. This Princeton program, which Bialek helped create, is an interdepartmental physics/chemistry program that emphasizes connections to biology. (Slides from Bialek's speech are posted at http://www.princeton.edu/~wbialek/wbialek_ASCB07.pdf.)

Explaining the program's purpose, Bialek said, "there is a cultural divide in the sciences that is nearly as great as that between the sciences and humanities--[But at Princeton,] we want to educate biologists to be more quantitative and educate physicists to study a broader class of systems--we are promoting work at the interface between physics and biology."

To this end, Princeton's interdepartmental program, which is currently in its fourth year, serves as an alternative path for freshmen into the sciences. It is designed to foster broader perspectives than would traditional paths without sacrificing depth. The program includes classes, labs and other activities that integrate physics and chemistry and cover applications to biological problems.

"If you want science students to be more mathematical, you can't solve the problem just by sending them off to the math department,' said Bialek. "Instead, we need to teach them how math is integrated into the scientific world."

So, for example, although freshmen are typically introduced to probability in math classes and to gas laws in physics classes, freshmen in Princeton's interdepartmental program are introduced to these topics in a single class that shows how probabilistic concepts apply to problems ranging from the ideal gas to genetics to Brownian motion. Such classes are accompanied by group exercises that introduce students to the types of collaboration required of professional scientists.

Princeton's program, according to Bialek, targets freshmen for the same reason that schools should introduce foreign languages to children as early in their education as possible: the younger you are, the easier it is to become bilingual and to become fluent in multiple scientific disciplines.

Evidence of the success of the Princeton program in preparing participants to contribute to the sciences includes the fact that large numbers of the program's participants have become physics and biology majors. Plus, says Bialek, program participants now enjoy a reputation in the university's science departments as "the go-to people for quantitative analyses."

But warned Bialek, "you can't solve boundary issues with a top-down initiative...or without genuine collaboration from all departments. At Princeton, we had the good fortune to have a group of faculty from all relevant departments who were interested in rethinking freshmen science education in the broadest sense."

And, Bialek said, the support provided by those multidisciplinary faculty members was critical to the success of Princeton's interdepartmental program.

Entitled New Biologists for the New Biology, the opening symposium at the ASCB meeting was funded by the National Science Foundation.

####

Contacts:
Lily Whiteman
National Science Foundation
(703) 292-8310

Copyright © National Science Foundation

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

Academic/Education

Oxford Instruments’ TritonXL Cryofree dilution refrigerator selected for the Oxford NQIT Quantum Technology Hub project June 30th, 2015

Rice University boots up powerful microscopes: New electron microscopes will capture images at subnanometer resolution June 29th, 2015

Six top Catalan research centres constitute ‘The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology’ to pursue a joint scientific endeavour June 27th, 2015

Lancaster University revolutionary quantum technology research receives funding boost June 22nd, 2015

Sensors

New micro-supercapacitor structure inspired by the intricate design of leaves: A team of scientists in Korea has devised a new method for making a graphene film for supercapacitors July 2nd, 2015

Carnegie Mellon chemists characterize 3-D macroporous hydrogels: Methods will allow researchers to develop new 'smart' materials June 30th, 2015

Visible Light-Sensitive Photocatalysts Used for Purification of Contaminated Water in Iran June 30th, 2015

Graphene breakthrough as Bosch creates magnetic sensor 100 times more sensitive than silicon equivalent June 28th, 2015

Materials/Metamaterials

New technology using silver may hold key to electronics advances July 2nd, 2015

NIST Group Maps Distribution of Carbon Nanotubes in Composite Materials July 2nd, 2015

Proposed TSCA Nanomaterial Rule ‘Premature’, Says Former EPA Toxicologist July 1st, 2015

NEI Announces the Issuance of Multiple Patents on Self-Healing & Superhydrophobic Coatings June 30th, 2015

Announcements

Nanospiked bacteria are the brightest hard X-ray emitters July 2nd, 2015

Engineering the world’s smallest nanocrystal July 2nd, 2015

Producing spin-entangled electrons July 2nd, 2015

NIST Group Maps Distribution of Carbon Nanotubes in Composite Materials July 2nd, 2015

Battery Technology/Capacitors/Generators/Piezoelectrics/Thermoelectrics/Energy storage

New micro-supercapacitor structure inspired by the intricate design of leaves: A team of scientists in Korea has devised a new method for making a graphene film for supercapacitors July 2nd, 2015

Samsung's New Graphene Technology Will Double Life Of Your Lithium-Ion Battery July 1st, 2015

June 29th, 2015

X-rays and electrons join forces to map catalytic reactions in real-time: New technique combines electron microscopy and synchrotron X-rays to track chemical reactions under real operating conditions June 29th, 2015

Events/Classes

Leti Announces Launch of First European Nanomedicine Characterisation Laboratory: Project Combines Expertise of 9 Partners in 8 Countries to Foster Nanomedicine Innovation and Facilitate Regulatory Approval July 1st, 2015

How Graphene–based Nanomaterials and Films Revolutionize Science Explained in July 9 Webinar Hosted by Park Systems June 29th, 2015

Graphene breakthrough as Bosch creates magnetic sensor 100 times more sensitive than silicon equivalent June 28th, 2015

Spain nanotechnology featured at NANO KOREA 2015 June 26th, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More










ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project