Contributed by Megan Nasto
Interdisciplinary collaborative research is widely recognized for its importance in advancing scientific knowledge. Many of the great discoveries and achievements of our time were born from collaborative efforts between people from diverse fields. The discovery of the Higgs Boson, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments, the mapping of the ocean floor, combatting pathogens via vaccines and antibiotics, and the discourse of gender performance are just a few assorted examples that exemplify the magnitude of interdisciplinary collaborations. It comes as no surprise that great work often occurs when two groups, given the same problem, ask different questions, pick up on different details, use different metaphors to describe the problem, and come into the situation with different perspectives. This is the strength of interdisciplinary collaborative research. The mixing of different frameworks of thinking is a great way to stimulate the development of new approaches to a problem that a single group, or field, wouldn’t be able to do. However, it appears that the majority of interdisciplinary collaborations occur between established professionals or academics that already have a solid educational background and a steady profession. We believe this begs the question, why? Why must the vast majority of great collaborative endeavors occur once we have already made a name for ourselves in our own respective fields?
We believe that interdisciplinary collaborative research is valuable not only for its immediate benefits to scientific knowledge, but also for keeping minds open to different perspectives, and the door open to diverse career paths. It is this aspect of interdisciplinary collaborations that has the potential to greatly benefit graduate students and early career professionals. Interdisciplinary collaborations at the graduate student level may be the perfect introduction to team-based approaches common in many private and governmental positions, which are career directions that many students at universities eventually take. Not only can interdisciplinary collaborations give graduate students the knowledge and the vocabulary to understand other fields of study, but it can also provide necessary communication skills and broader perspectives. These are a few of the resources that the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Network (ICN) hopes to provide to its graduate student members.
The ICN comprises over twenty graduate students from various departments including biology, ecology, chemistry, geography, public health, and journalism. We are a group that is seeking to be anything but the ordinary graduate student. We want to create a community for ourselves in which we can connect with each other, share resources, and support our own journeys through the academic world. We seek to transcend the average graduate student requirements and accomplish more than what is simply asked of us. We want to generate an environment in which we are encouraged to explore who we are as scientists, researchers, or professionals. Most importantly, we want to work with each other to ask pertinent questions, seek rational solutions, and make the next big advancement; all through interdisciplinary collaborative research.