, Nature of collaboration across disciplines, in Roman Holowinsky, Austin Channell, Otto J. Crocomo, Julius P. Kreier, & William R. Sharp (eds.), Pathways to Collaboration, 433–457 (CreateSpace Independent Publishing ).


I have been fortunate to have witnessed a complete transformation of the nature of collaboration across disciplines over the course of my career. As a graduate student in Physics, I did my doctoral research in an interdisciplinary laser spectroscopy laboratory established by my adviser and two chemists. My interests were primarily in performing spectroscopy on small molecules precisely enough to test theoretical predictions of quantum electrodynamic effects in the hydrogen molecule, while the chemists used much of the same equipment to study larger molecules. The intellectual atmosphere of the laboratory was fascinating, and the daily conversations across our similar but distinct disciplines gave me a taste that I never lost for seeking out ways in which I can learn new perspectives on the problems I am working on by discussing them with people in different disciplines. However, despite a productive research effort that brought in substantial funding and produced a steady stream of publications in major physics and chemistry journals, my adviser's tenure case was hindered by the perception in the two departments that he was doing too much physics to be a chemist and too much chemistry to be a physicist. More broadly, the challenge of interdisciplinary research was a frequent topic of discussion in the American Physical Society and the American Chemical Society, with broad agreement that such research held great promise for advancing the frontiers of knowledge, but most senior members concluded that it was too politically risky for junior faculty to attempt, and should be left until after achieving tenure.

«  Spatiotemporal patterns of agricultural drought in Sri Lanka | Climate and community »