UCI Graduate Students Discuss Multidisciplinary Research

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

May 21, 2007 -- Along with enormous opportunity often comes challenge. In academia, this can be particularly true of multidisciplinary research.

How can diverse standards of rigor be balanced across multiple fields?

In what ways can researchers from different disciplines collaborate?

How do participants evaluate work that crosses academic boundaries?

What are the political and professional problems of reaching across traditional disciplinary centers?

Graduate Students at UCI

Graduate students, including forum organizer
Eric Baumer (far right), discuss multidisciplinary

The third annual Graduate Student Forum on Interdisciplinary Research was held May 11 at the UC Irvine division of Calit2 to examine these and other issues.

Organized by Calit2-Emulex fellow Eric Baumer, a graduate student in information and computer sciences, and Kim Biel, a graduate student in visual studies, the May 11 forum was financially supported by Calit2 corporate partner Emulex. The day-long event encouraged and facilitated discussion among participants from different departments who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to interact, and helped them explore possible collaborations.

A four-member faculty panel discussed key issues they often face in interdisciplinary research. Luis Aviles, Spanish and Portuguese, and humanities; Elizabeth Losh, humanities; Donald Saari, math and economics; and Mark Warschauer, education and informatics; also answered student questions after their presentation.

The panel was followed by small group discussions in which graduate students informally presented their own research and discussed interdisciplinary issues with a faculty member and each other.

The event ended with a five-student graduate panel whose members had some experience with various aspects of multidisciplinary research. The answered questions and shared advice with students just embarking on the journey.

“It was an informative and productive day,” said Baumer. “I think all the participants gained a better understanding of each others’ research as well as the huge rewards and potential pitfalls of this type of collaboration.”