The Chronicle of Higher Education featured Scott Fraser, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering and the Director of Science Initiatives at USC, who arrived this year from the California Institute of Technology, where he was the Anna L. Rosen Professor of Biology and professor of engineering and applied science.
“They asked me to dream big, and we talked about ways to get different disciplines to play nicely together,” he said. “In those sorts of conversations, if they go well, the candidate ends up recruiting himself.”
Another new USC recruit is Steve A. Kay, dean of biological sciences at the University of California at San Diego, who has become dean of the [USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences]. At each of the universities where he has worked, he looked at where his field could go and then did things at the lunatic fringe.
“I like to pride myself on doing that, too,” he said.
“For some people, interdisciplinary might mean: I’m a biologist and I need a computer person, so I hire one. To me, that’s not interdisciplinary. Having an enslaved computer scientist doesn’t move things forward in the way it could. Instead, if you embed the computer scientist in your group and fully train them in what the issues are and where you’re trying to get to, that’s how innovations come about.
“USC is among only a handful of universities in the country that have the right range of departments and talents to do this. Caltech was an exceptional think tank and an institute where people could be fearless, but it’s a small place, without a clinical presence. USC offers the possibility, on a single campus, of putting in place a program that could make it effortless for people to move from engineering to medicine or chemistry or whatever it takes to attack and solve a problem.
“I’m bringing about two dozen people from Caltech, and about three or four who will take laboratory leadership positions at USC. We’re already talking to a dozen people worldwide about joining in this exciting effort to build a new convergence of fields.”
For the full article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, visit chronicle.com/article/Interdisciplinary/136323/.