From using digital models and maps to enhance the understanding of historical landscapes, to exploring novel approaches that help with early identification of autism, to accelerating energy innovation, interdisciplinary research at Duke University takes many forms and can range from a single scholar to a cross-campus team of investigators.
University-wide institutes, initiatives and centers (UICs) are catalysts for interdisciplinary research, though Duke supports many types of innovative scholarly research and artistic activity that crosses the boundaries of departments and schools. UIC support for interdisciplinary research begins with logistical assistance. Collectively, the UICs annually manage around $31 million in grants for faculty across the university. UICs also supply crucial technical services and training to faculty and students across Duke and administrative support, funding and space to a wide assortment of interdisciplinary centers, working groups, projects, labs and scholarly networks. The Social Science Research Institute, for example, offers a protected network exclusively for sensitive research data.
Bass Connections, a university-wide initiative, brings together faculty and students from all levels and schools to work on interdisciplinary research teams.
MEDx, created in 2015, encourages new collaborations among faculty from the School of Medicine and Pratt School of Engineering as well as other schools, institutes and initiatives at Duke.
Here are just a few examples of how undergraduates, graduate students and faculty are engaging in interdisciplinary research at Duke:
After volunteering at a nursing home for her service-learning class, Miurel Price felt connected to the people in the home and intrigued by how different forms of art could shape their health. As a Program II major, Price began researching holistic therapies through dance. “I’m excited for them to create their own work and be in charge of something that is theirs,” she says of the residents.
English PhD student Mary Caton Lingold’s interest in the intersection of literature and music has driven her to teach a class on this topic and participate in interdisciplinary projects such as the Haiti Lab and Banjology. “It’s about the community that’s formed,” she says. “Fostering interdisciplinary collaboration helps to capitalize on the energy that grad students bring to their field.”
As a Duke Law professor and Kenan Institute for Ethics Senior Fellow interested in international law, Laurence Helfer researches legal systems in Southeast Asia, the Andes, the Caribbean and Africa and is a visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen. He says his interdisciplinary perspective “gives me a clear-eyed view of what international law and institutions can realistically accomplish.”