Interdisciplinary research and education at usc
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Interdisciplinary Research and Education at USC. Focus: New areas of science and technology that require research teams Ari Requicha [email protected] Why Bother?. Real-world problems do not fall neatly within disciplinary boundaries – industry knows this.

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Interdisciplinary Research and Education at USC

Focus: New areas of science and technology that require research teams

Ari Requicha

[email protected]

Why bother l.jpg
Why Bother?

  • Real-world problems do not fall neatly within disciplinary boundaries – industry knows this.

  • Team work is essential in the real world and discouraged in universities.

  • Exciting areas of big impact, where major advances are taking place – where the action is.

  • Big, visible grants – where the dollars are.

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New Areas

  • Is it for real or a fad?

    • Wait and see (timid administration). Then if OK play catch up.

    • Take an informed risk. Maybe use internal and external advisory groups.

  • Who are the peers?

    • Merit/quality judgements.

    • Tenure decisions.

    • Should junior people be discouraged from doing this work?

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New Interdisciplinary Areas

  • Grass roots: must be simultaneously recognized as important by several departments (and the administration).

  • Top down: aggressive administration.

  • Hiring: in which department(s)? Administration controls the slots.

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Depth vs. Breadth

  • Can’t be an expert in everything.

  • Must have depth in something.

  • Goal: Depth in one discipline and knowledge of others to understand problems and to be able to interact with specialists.

  • Who judges depth/quality? Departments.

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Educational Implications

  • Students should not be “penalized” for choosing interdisciplinary work.

  • Fulfilling requirements in several disciplines is prohibitive.

  • Students do not have the pre-requisites for in-depth courses in other disciplines.

  • Team work is usually discouraged.

  • University has to accept the goal and

    • Teach both depth and breadth courses.

    • To increase breadth need to reduce depth (or increase course length).

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University Organization

  • Areas may come and go; faculty stay.

  • Matrix organization (used by many in industry).

  • Degrees: in departments but mention “programs”.



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  • Outside visibility.

  • Fund raising.

  • Recruiting.

  • Infrastructure support

    • Equipment.

    • Technical and administrative personnel. (Career paths?)

  • Facilitate interaction

    • Seminars and other events.

    • Contiguous space.

    • Powerful teleconferencing (IMSC; Medical School).

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USC Issues (1)

  • Budgeting for proposals – Wide diversity among schools

    • RA tuition.

    • Academic year release.

    • Overhead rates.

    • Need for multiple approvals.

    • Lengthy cost share discussions.

    • Authority over accounts – split vs. undivided accounts.

  • Teaching

    • New courses across departments.

    • “Breadth” courses are service courses.

    • Teaching credit.

    • Tuition credit.

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USC Issues (2)

  • Lack of space

    • Labs.

    • “Mingling” areas.

    • Seminar rooms.

    • Contiguous space for “program” faculty and students.

    • Quality of space, e.g. CS building.

  • Living in the past

    • Some faculty continue to work on areas that no longer have impact.

    • Departments tend to keep building up in existing areas.

    • Reward flexibility.

  • Who’s addressing all these issues?

    • The senate is a poor representative of the faculty involved in interdiscipinary activities in science and technology.

    • Strategic planning ignores science and technology trends.