Pedagogy

It seems clear that progress in the NBIC arena will necessitate contributions from several fields whose practitioners have tended to address problems in a sequential manner. The operative approach has been, first something useful is found, then, if providence allows it, someone else gets involved with new insights or new capabilities; ultimately, commercial products are realized. In this era of convergent technologies, such a recipe can no longer be accepted, and practitioners must be taught in a new way.

This new pedagogy involves multidisciplinary training at the intersection of traditional fields, and it involves scientists, engineers, and social scientists. Although we still will need the ivory tower thinker, we will especially need to engage the intellects of students and established researchers in multidisciplinary, multi-investigator pursuits that lead to different ways of looking at research findings as well as to the utilization of different research tools. In acknowledgement of the necessity for multidiscipline skills and the participation in cross-discipline collaborations, nearly all of the funding agencies and private foundations provide substantial funding for research as well as for education of students in projects that are multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary in character. A case in point is the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) project (established by NSF in 1999), housed at The City University of New York, which involves three colleges from CUNY (the City College, Hunter College, and the College of Staten Island); Columbia University; and the University of Rochester.

IGERT participants are dedicated to the creation of research initiatives that span disciplinary and institutional boundaries, and to the objective that such initiatives be reflected in the education and training of all its students. The overall goal is to educate and train the next generation of scientists in an interdisciplinary environment whereby a graduate student may participate in all the phases of a research project: synthesis, materials fabrication, and characterization. Our students, though trained in as described, will be rigorously educated in a field of chemistry, engineering, or materials science. It is expected that such students will develop imaginative problem-solving skills and acquire a broad range of expertise and fresh, interdisciplinary outlooks to use in their subsequent positions. Our students will be not just sources of samples or instrument technicians but full partners with multidisciplinary training.

Without dealing with the specific science focus, the value-added elements of the CUNY-IGERT are described below:

• Multidisciplinary training (with choice of home institution after initial matriculation period at

CUNY)

• IGERT focused seminar program (via video-teleconferencing)

• Reciprocal attendance of annual symposia

• Expanded training opportunities (rotations and extended visits to appropriate collaborating laboratories)

• Formalized special courses (utilizing distance learning technology)

• Credit-bearing enrichment activities and courses

• Collaborative involvement with industry and national laboratories

• International partnerships that provide a global perspective in the research and educational exposures of students

Such a model for coupling research and education will produce individuals capable of creatively participating in the NBIC arena.

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