Distinct barriers of communication exist between the social sciences and the biological or life sciences in the academy. Scholars from each are trained to produce knowledge from a discipline-specific perspective, and seldom have the opportunity, as students, to engage in cross-disciplinary inquiry. This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award in the Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) Track to Temple University brings together scientists from the departments of Geography and Urban Studies (Social Sciences) and Biology (Life Sciences) to pilot a model for cross-disciplinary learning and communication that will use studios as a collaborative learning space and a science museum as a venue for public communication. The project will contribute to wider academic reflection about the production of body-centered knowledge and the role of university partnerships to share this knowledge.
The goal of the project is to prepare graduate students in the social and life sciences to communicate with each other and with the public by focusing on one broad commonality - the drive to produce knowledge about the human body. The body is a complex phenomenon that is simultaneously biological and social, and thus represents a strategic thematic focus for interdisciplinary collaboration. The model of interdisciplinary graduate education to be developed and tested will use the design studio approach, which asks students to structure inquiry around an ill-defined problem. Graduate student learning will be organized around two sequential design studios and an interactive exhibit. This series is sequential in that each stage demands a broader audience around which to focus design problems. Students in the first studio will design for intra-classroom communication; while in the second studio, they will design for outside audiences and receive feedback from students in middle school, high school, and undergraduate classrooms. Prototypes developed in the design studios will be transformed into exhibits to be presented to public audiences at the Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia, PA. Student learning will be tracked and evaluated, as will the impacts of outreach activities on students and families. As such, the project seeks to collect data on the effectiveness of this model for interdisciplinary graduate education and university-museum partnerships that could be more broadly scaled and adapted.
The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new, potentially transformative, and scalable models for STEM graduate education training. The Innovations in Graduate Education Track is dedicated solely to piloting, testing, and evaluating novel, innovative, and potentially transformative approaches to graduate education.