Becoming More Interdisciplinary

I study the brain.

I examine how language and hence communication is represented in a brain and the impact disorders such as autism have on it. While my scientific training is primarily about study of speech and language, I have often lamented not being able to take an interdisciplinary approach to my work.

I would like to work with a psychologist, to understand how emotional and mental health impact communication. Or involve an occupational therapist to examine how improvement in motor skills improve cognitive and communication skills. A biologist would study the changes in the brain’s biochemical milieu as a result of speech-language and occupational intervention.

Such an interdisciplinary approach not only brings together the depth of expertise of faculty from different disciplines, but also draws on the breadth of knowledge that would help advance research and the sharing of ideas in broad ways. After all we are studying the same brain from different viewpoints.

Interdisciplinary endeavors are certainly growing in academia.

Much of the recent funding initiatives of National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal funding agencies involve research that necessitates experts from multiple disciplines.

At Harvard, the sub-discipline of physical anthropology combined with modern genetics to create a department of human evolutionary biology. At Yale, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs applies diverse sciences to the study issues from diplomacy to public health and international law while offering a new major. North Carolina State University has brought 42 new faculty members in 12 areas to bolster its interdisciplinary research programs where economists, social scientists, educators, statisticians and molecular biologists, among others, are examining the social and economic implications of genetically modified organisms and an initiative on digital learning in K-12 education.

The University of Utah —> Read More