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Innovative Curriculum Enables Interdisciplinary Research


Our new NeuroEngineering curriculum provides a promising new approach to leaping the walls between disciplines and practically enabling advanced interdisciplinary education. The first key element is initial accelerated courses in the “other” discipline that springboard students to a level of sophistication enabling them to quickly “mainstream” into existing courses in the other discipline. Ordinarily, it would take students up to two years of remedial preparation via the standard course sequences. The other key element is a unique interdisciplinary research project course: factual knowledge is only one part of successful interdisciplinary collaboration; a deep understanding and appreciation of the language, motivation, goals, expectations, and techniques - in a word, the ‘culture’ of the other discipline, is just as essential to success. Immersing trainees in a real interdisciplinary research project in collaboration with students from other disciplines, under the guidance of mentoring faculty who have already mastered these essential skills, enables the students to master the “soft” as well as “hard” skills needed to succeed at the forefront of interdisciplinary science. By reducing the student preparation to engage in sophisticated interdisciplinary research from several years of full-time effort to three semester-long courses over two years, this new architecture for interdisciplinary education should enable many more researchers to successfully pursue interdisciplinary research.

Address Goals

Efficient and effective preparation of graduate students for interdisciplinary research is essential to overcome the currently high entry barriers so as to substantially increase the pool of truly interdisciplinary researchers. The new curricular strategy we have developed appears to lower this barrier to the point that most interested students can realistically include it as part of their program of study.