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Binghamton University-HHMI Program: Interdisciplinary research for undergraduate majors in science and engineering

Jumpstarting collaboration, fueling undergraduate research

Binghamton University received a $1.4 million, four-year grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to fund undergraduate interdisciplinary research opportunities focused on solving problems in the life sciences. Binghamton is one of 50 universities, including Harvard, Yale and Cornell, to have received funding.

With science becoming more collaborative and interdisciplinary, life science and medical research is increasingly dependent on scientists and engineers who can work across disciplines. With the help of the HHMI grant, Binghamton undergraduates will have more opportunities to cross those disciplinary boundaries.

“Biology is incorporating more mathematics, engineering, physics and computer science,” said Anna Tan-Wilson, a Binghamton University distinguished teaching professor of biological sciences and HHMI program director. “In the real world, those boundaries are blurring.”

The grant will fund a program that teams undergraduate majors in the life sciences with students in the physical sciences, mathematics, computer science and engineering to work on collaborative, interdisciplinary research projects in the life sciences. Binghamton University, through the Division of Research and the Graduate School, has also provided funds for this project.

Our Program Goals

Biologists increasingly work with mathematicians, computer scientists, physical scientists and engineers as they investigate complex interacting systems. Physical scientists and engineers look to living organisms for possible solutions to the problems they seek to solve. This has created a need, and new career opportunities, for scientists and engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists who can work across disciplines on problems relating to the life sciences.

The Project

Teams comprised of Binghamton University faculty, graduate mentors and undergraduate students will work on interdisciplinary life science-related research involving collaboration in the physical sciences, computer science, engineering or mathematics.  

Undergraduate majors in disciplines based in the life sciences and undergraduate majors in the physical sciences, mathematics, computer science, systems science and engineering will work together on projects relating to the life sciences. Students will work in teams with faculty mentors on an interdisciplinary collaborative project.

To maximize the likelihood of success of undergraduate students in their first efforts at interdisciplinary research, we will provide venues for faculty to forge collaborations, design projects suitable for undergraduates and tailor expectations to the academic preparation of the students.

In academic institutions, most research training at the undergraduate level is done within the students' own field of study. Interdisciplinary research at the undergraduate level is not common. Therefore, our program will conduct a systems science-based analysis with the goal of ascertaining best practices for success.

Participants

The program is open to Binghamton University faculty and students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines, including the science and mathematics division of Harpur College of Arts and Sciences and the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science. Faculty members with ideas for a project or are interested in meeting potential collaborating faculty, please fill out a BUHHMI project application/inquiry form (.doc, 42kb). Send the form to Elizabeth Button ebutton@binghamton.edu.

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Last Updated: 10/7/13