Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

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

AIM Photonics Welcomes Coventor as Newest Member: US-Backed Initiative Taps Process Modeling Specialist to Enable Manufacturing of High-Yield, High-Performance Integrated Photonic Designs March 16th, 2017

Nominations Invited for $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience: Major international prize recognizes a visionary nanotechnology researcher February 20th, 2017

Oxford Nanoimaging report on how the Nanoimager, a desktop microscope delivering single molecule, super-resolution performance, is being applied at the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology & Infection November 22nd, 2016

The University of Applied Sciences in Upper Austria uses Deben tensile stages as an integral part of their computed tomography research and testing facility October 18th, 2016

Sensors

Tiny sensor lays groundwork for precision X-rays detection via endoscopy:Nanoscale fiber-integrated X-ray sensor opens new doors for medical imaging and radiotherapy March 29th, 2017

“Cysteine Rose” Wins 2016 Thermo Fisher Scientific Electron Microscopy Image Contest: Thermo Fisher honors Andrea Jacassi of the Italian Institute of Technology for image of cysteine crystals using focused ion beam techniques March 27th, 2017

UC researchers use gold coating to control luminescence of nanowires: University of Cincinnati physicists manipulate nanowire semiconductors in pursuit of making electronics smaller, faster and cheaper March 17th, 2017

Optical fingerprint can reveal pollutants in the air: Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have proposed a new, sophisticated method of detecting molecules with sensors based on ultra-thin nanomaterials March 15th, 2017

Materials/Metamaterials

Gold standards for nanoparticles: Understanding how small organic ions stabilize gold nanoparticles may allow for better control March 29th, 2017

Researchers uncover secret of nanomaterial that makes harvesting sunlight easier March 29th, 2017

Researchers make flexible glass for tiny medical devices: Glass can bend over and over again on a nanoscale March 27th, 2017

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Announcements

Gold standards for nanoparticles: Understanding how small organic ions stabilize gold nanoparticles may allow for better control March 29th, 2017

Tiny sensor lays groundwork for precision X-rays detection via endoscopy:Nanoscale fiber-integrated X-ray sensor opens new doors for medical imaging and radiotherapy March 29th, 2017

Researchers uncover secret of nanomaterial that makes harvesting sunlight easier March 29th, 2017

Information storage with a nanoscale twist: Discovery of a novel rotational force inside magnetic vortices makes it easier to design ultrahigh capacity disk drives March 28th, 2017

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

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

New nanofiber marks important step in next generation battery development March 14th, 2017

Imaging the inner workings of a sodium-metal sulfide battery for first time: Understanding how the structural and chemical makeup of the material changes during the charge/discharge process could help scientists advance battery design for future energy storage needs March 9th, 2017

Tweaking electrolyte makes better lithium-metal batteries: A pinch of electrolyte additive gives rechargeable battery stability, longer life March 2nd, 2017

Events/Classes

Leti and HORIBA Scientific to Host Webinar on Ultrafast Characterization Tool: Plasma Profiling Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer Tool Cuts Optimization Time In Layer Deposition and Fabrication of Wide Range of Applications March 27th, 2017

Leti Presents Advances in Propagation Modeling and Antenna Design for mmWave Spectrum: Paper Is One of 15 that Leti Presented at European Conference on Antennas and Propagation March 19-24 March 23rd, 2017

Next-gen steel under the microscope March 18th, 2017

UC researchers use gold coating to control luminescence of nanowires: University of Cincinnati physicists manipulate nanowire semiconductors in pursuit of making electronics smaller, faster and cheaper March 17th, 2017

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