By Josh Qian, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 13, 2012
Like the Avengers, the University hopes to show strength in numbers by uniting professors from different disciplines as part of the recent MCubed initiative.
The initiative is led by Mark Burns, professor and chair of the department of chemical engineering, and Engineering Associate Deans Alec Gallimore and Thomas Zurbuchen. It plans to invest $15 million to fund new multi-disciplinary research projects.
The projects require three different faculty members from different disciplines to join forces and agree on a single research idea. Each researcher will receive $20,000, and when they “cube” together, the groups will start with the combined $60,000 to hire a research assistant.
MCubed is part of the University’s Third Century initiative, which is currently using $50 million in funds to promote multidisciplinary teaching, research and service efforts related to global challenges such as climate change and social justice.
Before the Fall 2012 term begins, a website for posting and finding collaborative research ideas will be available to researchers.
Neurology Prof. Eva Feldman, the director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, said the MCubed initiative will allow faculty in the Taubman Institute to form new multidisciplinary projects with others.
“The synergy from these new partnerships will facilitate new discoveries, and from new discoveries we hope to develop new cures,” Feldman said.
Elizabeth Barry, managing director of the Life Sciences Institute, said she believes many LSI staff members will be interested in participating in MCubed.
“The MCubed initiative is right up our alley,” Barry said. “We have to try all sorts of organizational experiments to make it easier for faculty from different units and specialties to work together.”
Barry explained that MCubed is an experimental initiative designed to bring faculty from different areas together for research and added that the University created LSI 10 years ago for the same purpose.
“The LSI experiment has demonstrated that you can generate really exciting progress at the boundaries of the disciplines,” Barry said.
James Holloway, associate dean of undergraduate education at the College of Engineering, said the program is exciting due to its flexibility in providing the base funding of interdisciplinary research.
“For students at the University, the benefits of working across disciplines are huge,” Holloway said. “Michigan is unique in its excellence across breadth, and students should be able to take advantage of this breadth at every level from flexible undergraduate curricula to interdisciplinary research opportunities for graduate students.”