Saint Louis University

The most exciting science in the 21st century is likely to evolve among, not within, traditional disciplines…Lately, most research universities have softened disciplinary boundaries by creating multi-departmental graduate programs…
(Science, 301, 1485 (2003))

The last two decades have seen a significant increase in emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches within the scientific community and current students graduating with a Ph.D. need to be skilled in the art of collaboration. Clearly, many of the most important scientific questions require collaboration among scientists in different disciplines and, further, lead scientists who are skilled between the traditional disciplines.

Scientific training in a multidisciplinary environment is becoming ever more important. Whether students find employment in the telecommunications industry, where chemists, physicists and engineers work on the same project, or in the pharmaceutical industry, where biologists, chemists and medical doctors commonly work together, or in one of numerous other enterprises, being able to collaborate with people who are non-specialists in your field is vital. Additionally, many scientists find employment in the legal profession or in policy-making fields. In these cases, it is incumbent on the scientist to be able to present the results of highly technical research to non-scientists in a clear manner. Beyond employment, the communication skills of scientists are important in the inherent moral obligation to engage and educate the public on scientific topics of national importance.

The environment at most of the large research institutions where interdisciplinary programs are housed is not ideal for training graduate students to be good communicators. These institutions tend to have very large research groups where post-doctoral associates run the day-to-day operations and graduate students have minimal interaction with their mentor. At Saint Louis University we have the unique opportunity to provide an interdisciplinary program that is large enough to provide students with broad exposure to collaborative scientific projects, yet is small enough for students to have the one-on-one interaction with their faculty mentor(s).