Our approach to interdisciplinary inquiry rests on a strategy of lowering barriers to collaboration. We seek to connect people with overlapping interests and foster exchanges of ideas, whether by providing opportunities for sequenced funding or assisting our faculty in building linkages to partners beyond the university. Ranging from the ambitious forays of a single scholar to cross-campus teams of investigators, interdisciplinary research at Duke might involve digital reconstructions of ancient urban landscapes, or novel mechanisms of identifying autism, or partnerships with government regulators to reimagine regional energy markets.
The university-wide institutes and initiatives serve as catalysts for interdisciplinary research, supporting and amplifying the many types of innovative scholarly research and artistic activity that occur within and across the boundaries of departments and schools. Their support for interdisciplinary research begins with logistical assistance. Collectively, the institutes and initiatives annually manage around $31 million in grants for faculty across the university. They also supply crucial methodological training, administrative support, and collaborative space to faculty and students across Duke, partly by sponsoring a wide assortment of interdisciplinary centers, working groups, projects, labs, and scholarly networks. Most of these groups are run by tenure-track faculty whose tenure home resides in a department or a school; all of them have significant participation by school-based scholars.
The Bass Connections program brings together faculty and students across all of Duke’s schools to tackle complex societal challenges in interdisciplinary research teams. In year-long projects, semester-long courses, and summer programs, undergraduates and graduate students collaborate with faculty and postdocs on cutting-edge research, often in partnership with community organizations, government agencies, school systems, and private companies.
One crucial dimension of Duke’s interdisciplinary research strategy involves seed grant programs. These early stage investments give faculty and graduate students the chance to explore promising research avenues and assess the potential for more sustained inquiry. See our Funding Opportunities page.
In addition to these central opportunities, seed grant programs run by the university-wide institutes and initiatives distribute more than $1 million per year to support innovative collaborations among Duke faculty. These include:
- Duke Institute for Brain Sciences: Research Incubator Awards and Germinator Research Awards
- Duke Global Health Institute: Pilot Grants, Travel Grants, and Visiting Scholar Grants
- Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability: Catalyst Program and Energy Research Seed Fund
- Franklin Humanities Institute: Humanities Labs
[This interdisciplinary collaboration] has been personally very transforming intellectually. It has partially changed my research and writing focus. —Faculty member
I was drawn to Duke for my Ph.D. not only because of my advisor, but also because of Duke’s strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research. —Graduate student
I deeply believe that the best innovations come out of synergies between what might seem like very disparate fields. —Undergraduate student