This institute of advanced study is made possible by the generous support of trustee emeritus Harvey Picker ’36.
The Institute will promote scientific research leading to the generation of new knowledge that is only obtainable through interdisciplinary approaches. In so doing, it is expected that the Institute will advance opportunities for high-quality faculty scholarship, facilitate communication and collaboration between Colgate faculty and possibly experts at other institutions, and further raise the profile of research in the sciences and mathematics at Colgate University. It is also anticipated that the institute will enhance interdisciplinary approaches to learning by way of innovative interdisciplinary curricular possibilities and meaningful student-faculty research opportunities. Such enhancements may lead to better recruitment, retention, and education of students in the sciences and mathematics. Taken together, the proposed Institute is intended to catalyze contributions by Colgate faculty in important interdisciplinary areas of inquiry, enhance the scope of faculty scholarship, and add new dimensions of opportunities for student learning.
In the 21st century, the frontiers of scientific inquiry will increasingly be found at the boundaries of the traditional disciplines. The dynamic areas of environmental science, biophysics, planetary science, biochemistry, and nanoscience are examples of such interdisciplinary frontiers. To study complex systems, scientists will need expertise and the ability to forge collaborative relationships that span multiple disciplines. The preparation of future scientists must also be mindful of growing demands for increasingly broad training as today’s students must be able to address tomorrow’s problems that will often lie at the frontiers and boundaries of science. Colgate University is well positioned to embrace new frontiers of discovery and learning. A timely commitment to the promotion of interdisciplinary science at Colgate will enable the university to strengthen its standing as a leader in scientific inquiry and undergraduate science education.
The Harvey Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute at Colgate University is to foster the creation of new knowledge that is obtainable only through the development of sustained interdisciplinary research. The Institute supports internal and external collaborations among faculty who bring expertise from disparate disciplines to bear on current and emerging scientific problems that remain intractable to the methods used within a single discipline. The Institute also encourages interdisciplinary approaches to learning through innovative curricular and research opportunities for students that may arise from the pursuit of interdisciplinary research projects.
To foster the development of meaningful interdisciplinary research, the establishment of collaborative relationships, and the creation of new opportunities for interdisciplinary approaches to learning, the Institute will support a wide range of activities. The central aim of the Institute is to cultivate interdisciplinary research projects. This aim may be met in a direct way by the support of specific research projects, and it may be met in indirect ways such as through activities that facilitate communication across the sciences and mathematics.
The proposed guidelines for supported activities are intended to provide reasonable flexibility so that the Institute is maximally inclusive. An emphasis on inclusivity will allow the Institute to have the greatest possible impact on research and learning at Colgate University.
The primary activity to be supported by the institute is the funding of interdisciplinary research projects. The following criteria will be used to prioritize projects for support from the Institute:
- The proposed project must involve a scientific question/problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach. It is recognized that the term “interdisciplinary” is not easily defined. The spirit of this criterion is that a proposed project should investigate a topic that an individual investigator could satisfactorily study alone. Possible project areas include but are not limited to paleoclimatology, bioinformatics, nanoscience, cognitive science, environmental toxicology, and science and ethics.
- The proposed project must involve collaboration between investigators with complementary expertise. The collaborative relationships may be intra- or inter-institutional. Collaborators need not be from different departments; however, distinctions between the expertise that each brings to bear on the proposed project must be clear. Investigators need not all be from the sciences and mathematics if such expertise will enhance the scientific study.
- Satisfactory progress on the proposed project should not be possible through other readily available sources of funds (e.g., departmental funds, Research Council funds).
- The proposed project must be scientifically sound, and have the potential to result in a significant contribution to scientific knowledge (i.e., peer reviewed publication).
- The proposed project should have reasonable potential for sustained activity beyond the period of Institute support (i.e., ability to attract extramural funding).
- To the extent possible, the proposed project should involve students and should contribute to interdisciplinary learning.
- Major equipment purchases should not be a primary focus of the project. However, equipment that is clearly required for collaborative projects will be considered.
- The period of support will normally be two-years, although shorter periods of funding will also be considered. Institute funds are not intended to provide long-term support to a project.
Other activities that indirectly enhance interdisciplinary study in science and mathematics may also be supported by the Institute. Such activities may include sponsoring of speakers and the organization of colloquia. To be eligible for support from the Institute, proposed activities must satisfy all of the following criteria:
- The proposed activity must have a clear interdisciplinary element.
- The proposed activity must not be eligible for other readily available sources of funds (e.g., departmental, divisional).
- To the extent possible, the proposed activity should have impact beyond the lifetime of the activity.
It is anticipated that at any one time, a small number (2-3) of interdisciplinary teams will be financially supported by the Institute. The Institute will stand ready to support meritorious projects requiring a variety of levels of support. Thus, the institute will support both major initiatives as well as smaller interdisciplinary projects.
Faculty Director. The Institute is administered by a faculty director (Damhnait McHugh). The director is appointed by the President with advice from the Dean of the Faculty. The director will normally serve a 3-year term. The director will receive one course release each year with a replacement course to be provided to the home department of the director if needed.
The director will be responsible for convening the Executive Advisory Committee, overseeing the work of an administrative assistant, encouraging and coordinating the writing of extramural proposals to support interdisciplinary activities, manage a budget according to the University cycle, and report as requested by the Dean of the Faculty to the President and the Board of Trustees.
Administrative Assistant. The faculty director is assisted by an administrative assistant (Rene Beers). The position will initially be part-time, but it may become full-time as the demands warrant. The assistant will arrange for public events, support hiring, monitor budgets and expenditures, maintain the Institute’s website, carry out clerical support tasks, and assist the director as other needs arise.
Executive Advisory Committee. An Executive Advisory Committee will govern the Institute. The Executive Advisory Committee will provide guidance to faculty interested in participating in the Institute and will select proposed activities for support by the Institute. The committee will be comprised of one member of each of the following departments: biology, chemistry, computer science, geography, geology, mathematics, physics and astronomy, and psychology. The Director of ENST serves ex officio. Departmental representatives are to be selected by each department. Committee members will normally serve two-year terms. The committee will be chaired by the Faculty Director.
The members of the Executive Advisory Committee are as follows: Damhnait McHugh (Biology), Ephraim Woods (Chemistry), Joel Sommers (Computer Science), Ellen Kraly (Environmental Studies), William Peck (Geology), Dan Schult (Mathematics), Ken Segall (Physics and Astronomy), Bruce Hansen (Psychology), and Peter Scull (Geography).
External Advisory Committee. An External Advisory Committee will be assembled consisting of outside individuals with interest and competence in the Sciences who are in a position to support and provide advice to the Institute. Members of the External Advisory Committee will be appointed by the President with advice from the Provost and the Director of the Institute to 3-year, renewable terms. The Institute Director and the Provost will serve on the External Advisory Committee ex officio. The Committee will receive all announcements of Institute activities and copies of the annual reports filed by the Director and will meet jointly with the Executive Advisory Committee on an annual basis.
Location. The Institute is housed in the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center.
The primary goal of the institute is to enhance faculty scholarship in interdisciplinary areas leading to the generation of new knowledge. An important secondary goal is to encourage interdisciplinary approaches to learning. Specific measurable outcomes include:
- An increase in interdisciplinary publications in peer-reviewed journals and an increase in professional presentations.
- An increase in submission and success of extramural proposals, particularly collaborative proposals.
- An increase in the percentage of newly enrolled students who indicate an interest in concentrating in the sciences and mathematics.
- An increase in the number of students enrolled in science and mathematics courses, and in the number of graduating concentrators in the sciences and mathematics.
- An increase in the number of science and mathematics graduates who pursue graduate and professional study.
- An increase in interdisciplinarity in the science curriculum as measured by the introduction of new interdisciplinary science and mathematics courses.
The Faculty Director of the Institute is responsible for monitoring these objectives and reporting annually at the end of the academic year to the Provost and Dean of the faculty. An annual report on spending is to be submitted by the Faculty Director to the Provost and Dean of the faculty at the same time.