Researchers outline power of multidisciplinary approachBy Emily Caldwell
It takes a village of researchers to make discoveries with the biggest impact.
It's not quite that simple, but Ohio State Vice President for Research C. Bradley Moore contends that in today's environment, many of the most meaningful university research opportunities -- in terms of solving societal problems and making the big discoveries of the future -- require a multidisciplinary approach.
Moore led a presentation to the University's Board of Trustees March 2 outlining the connections between fostering multidisciplinary research and nurturing existing faculty while seeking to recruit other world-class scholars, and how that mix makes for an enhanced undergraduate and graduate student experience.
The link can't be underestimated, Moore said, noting the Ohio State Academic Plan's assertion that strong multidisciplinary platforms provide a means to attract and retain outstanding faculty and students. And outstanding faculty and students are the key to overall academic excellence, Moore added, referring to the critical role interdisciplinary research will play in the advancement of the Academic Plan.
Two faculty joined Moore in demonstrating the power of the interdisciplinary approach: Maria Palazzi, associate professor of design and acting director of the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD), and Firdaus Dhabhar, assistant professor of oral biology and molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics.
ACCAD is renowned for the high-tech collaborative and multidisciplinary opportunities it provides to students. The center originated from pioneering Ohio State work and now regularly turns out award-winning alumni skilled in a range of computer animation and virtual design areas of expertise.
Among the projects Palazzi described are the ACCAD Motion Capture Lab, which combines principles of athletics, medicine, computer science, ergonomics and the arts to portray computer-based movement, and a project that crossed not just the disciplines of art, architecture and history, but institutions, as well, in which faculty and students from Ohio State and three other universities collaborated to create a virtual reconstruction of a Roman bath at Isthmia, Greece. A virtual theater created by ACCAD, theatre and computer science will soon be used in a course that serves 1,000 undergraduates per quarter, Palazzi added. And an upcoming Ohio State residency by famed mime Marcel Marceau is made possible by cooperation among ACCAD, the Department of Theatre, University Libraries and the private sector: Industrial Light + Magic, a division of Lucas Digital Ltd.
Dhabhar and his colleagues across Ohio State and several other institutions and agencies focus on research that will lead to better understanding of the biological mechanisms by which the body maintains health. Rather than studying mechanisms of disease, dying and death in the way most biomedical studies do, this research concentrates on the health-promoting aspects of psycho-physiology.
The research aims to identify factors that contribute to good health or to enhanced recovery from surgery or disease. The factors examined range from the psychological, endocrine and immune systems to genetic, nutritional and sleep status in patients."The ultimate goal is to use our knowledge to place the patient into a fast healing psycho-physiological state before or during treatment and thereby to accelerate recovery,"Dhabhar said.
Findings suggest that acute or short-duration stress enhances immune function, while chronic stress is immuno-suppressive. Dhabhar said that because stress is an intrinsic part of life and thought to be a causal factor in many diseases, these collaborative studies provide a better understanding of how the body works to enhance or suppress immune function."We will use this knowledge to manipulate immune function depending on the disease being treated,"he said."Since such treatments would harness the body's natural immune control mechanisms, they may be more efficient and have fewer side effects."
Dhabhar said he was especially attracted to Ohio State because it houses one of the premier multidisciplinary biomedical research groups in the world. The Psycho-Neuro-Immunology group, comprised of students, staff and faculty in the Colleges of Medicine and Public Health and Dentistry and the Department of Psychology, has contributed many landmark studies to the field of psycho-neuro-immunology.
Dhabhar and Palazzi are among the many contributing to the world-class faculty Ohio State seeks to continue to attract as part of the Academic Plan. Moore said building a world-class faculty will require hiring and developing the most promising junior faculty, retaining and supporting outstanding mid-career faculty, and recruiting eminent senior faculty. The combination of such faculty and a growing list of multidisciplinary research opportunities will contribute to yet another Academic Plan strategy: developing academic programs that define Ohio State as the nation's leading land-grant university.
Moore noted that Ohio State aspires to increase the number of national academy-caliber faculty in its ranks, but also said the University is showing great strengths in increasing external research funding; the growth in research expenditures has averaged 8 percent over the last two years, and is expected to increase.
University continues growth of Scholars programsBy Shannon Wingard
After volunteering at a local hospital when he was younger, Charles Thomas knew he wanted to use his life to help others. When he joined Ohio State's Mount Leadership Society, Thomas told the Board of Trustees on March 2, he found students who shared his same desire to improve peoples' lives.
"The person I am now is what the community has made me,"said Thomas, a Mount Scholar and a physical therapy major from New Orleans. Thomas said he enjoys the Mount Leadership Society, a Scholars program designed to encourage community service and leadership, because he is encouraged to"become a better person"by participating in outreach programs as well as receiving a top education.
As a part of Ohio State's goal to enroll 20 percent of incoming freshmen into Scholars programs, the University has created four new programs scheduled to begin this fall, Dan Farrell, associate provost for Honors and Scholars Programming and director of the Honors & Scholars Center, told the trustees.
The new scholars programs -- Biological Sciences, Communication Technology, Undecided Liberal Arts and Tomorrow's Teachers -- will give students a chance to live with others who share similar academic goals and career interests.
"The Scholars programs are highly specialized living, learning centers,"Farrell said."These students are not just living together. This program is much more substantive."
Aside from living with fellow Scholars, each student receives mentoring and faculty support, enhanced career planning and graduate school preparation, guaranteed enrollment into selected first-year classes with other Scholars and enriched study approaches, such as study abroad and independent research opportunities.
Currently, 460 Ohio State students participate in one of the four existing Scholars programs -- Health Sciences, Humanities, Arts Interdisciplinary and the Mount Leadership Society. The Mount Leadership Society is in its second year, while the other three programs began this past fall.
Students accepted into the Scholars programs typically must have an ACT composite score between 25 and 28 or an SAT combined score between 1140 and 1280, and rank in the top 20 percent of their high school class. Only new first-quarter freshman students who begin at Ohio State in autumn quarter are eligible to apply for these programs. Incoming students eligible for Honors programs at Ohio State are not eligible for the Scholars programs.
According to Joe Gilroy, a Humanities Scholar and an English and linguistics major from Chicago, the Humanities Scholars Program was the deciding factor in his decision to attend Ohio State."It's been one of the best decisions I have made so far,"he said.
His favorite aspects of the program are sharing a close environment with the other Scholars as well as having an"incredible"adviser who offers career guidance and academic support.