Texas Tech University

Transdisciplinary Research Academy



Expected outcomes include:

  • White papers to agencies and foundations promoting novel areas of research and intellectual exploration
  • Grant proposals to agencies and foundations
  • Curricula and programs to stimulate cross-cutting interactions and advance theory

In keeping with the Texas Tech University Mission Statement and Strategic Plan, we seek interactions between faculty working in areas of university research focus (listed below) with those from the creative arts, humanities and social sciences to address important problems with a long-term vision and a global perspective. Examples include:

  • Projects similar to the Grand Challenges
  • Science and Technology Centers
  • Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) and the NSF Integrative Graduate Education Research and Traineeships (IGERT)

Ideally, Transdisciplinary Academy member projects will fall within the following strategic research areas:

  • Renewable energy
  • Neuroimaging and neuroscience
  • Bioinformatics / proteomics / metabolomics with a system focus
  • Food safety
  • Materials science
  • Cancer
  • Nutrition / obesity / diabetes
  • Climate/water/agriculture
  • Bioengineering/biotechnology
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Addiction recovery
  • National security
  • STEM Education and assessment


Below are descriptions of some of the targets:

  • Grand Challenges represent global problems for which solutions are sought. These solutions are long-term and involve cooperation between different disciplines, societal partners and policy makers. Examples of some of the Grand Challenges in Engineering, Global Health and Earth and Environmental Sciences are listed here:
    • Engineering: The 2010 NAE Grand Challenges National Summit brought together leading scientists and engineers, educators, policy leaders, innovators and corporate executives to address the 14 Grand Challenges articulated by the National Academy of Engineering. (http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/)
    • Global Health: The Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative fosters scientific and technological innovation to solve key health problems in the developing world. The initiative includes the Grand Challenges in Global Health grant program and the newer Grand Challenges Explorations grant program.(http://www.grandchallenges.org/Pages/Default.aspx)
    • Climate Change and Biodiversity: "The effects of a number of important drivers of environmental science must be factored into our approaches to solving environmental problems: population growth, concentration of population into huge urban centers (many of which are situated in areas subject to natural hazards), an accelerating need for resources, mankind as a significant agent of change in the earth system, and unrealistic expectations for absolute guarantees from science. This final driver is a purely sociopolitical factor, but a critical one in seeking societally acceptable solutions to environmental problems." Mary Lou Zoback, U.S. Geological Survey, 2000. (http://www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/11/12/pdf/i1052-5173-11-12-41.pdf)
  • The Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC, "haystack") is a network of individuals and institutions inspired by the possibilities that new technologies offer us for shaping how we learn, teach, communicate, create, and organize our local and global communities. We are motivated by the conviction that the digital era provides rich opportunities for informal and formal learning and for collaborative, networked research that extends across traditional disciplines, across the boundaries of academe and community, across the "two cultures" of humanism and technology, across the divide of thinking versus making, and across social strata and national borders. (http://hastac.org/)
  • Science and Technology Centers' Integrative Partnerships program supports innovative, potentially transformative, complex research and education projects that require large-scale, long-term awards. Science and Technology Centers (STCs) conduct world-class research through partnerships among academic institutions, national laboratories, industrial organizations, and/or other public/private entities, and via international collaborations, as appropriate. They provide a means to undertake significant investigations at the interfaces of disciplines and/or fresh approaches within disciplines. STCs may involve any areas of science and engineering that NSF supports. STC investments support the NSF vision of advancing discovery, innovation and education beyond the frontiers of current knowledge, and empowering future generations in science and engineering.
    Centers provide a rich environment for encouraging future scientists, engineers, and educators to take risks in pursuing discoveries and new knowledge. STCs foster excellence in education by integrating education and research, and by creating bonds between learning and inquiry so that discovery and creativity fully support the learning process.
    NSF expects STCs to demonstrate leadership in the involvement of groups traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering at all levels (faculty, students, and postdoctoral researchers) within the Center. Centers use either proven or innovative mechanisms to address issues such as recruitment, retention and mentorship of participants from underrepresented groups.
    Centers must undertake activities that facilitate knowledge transfer, i.e., the exchange of scientific and technical information with the objective of disseminating and utilizing knowledge broadly in multiple sectors. Examples of knowledge transfer include technology transfer with the intention of supporting innovation, providing key information to public policy makers, or dissemination of knowledge from one field of science to another. (http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11522/nsf11522.htm)
  • The Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) supports basic research in science and engineering at US institution of higher education that is of potential interest to the DoD.  The program is focused on multidisciplinary research efforts where more than one traditional discipline interact to provide rapid advances in scientific areas of interest to the DoD.  As defined by the DoD, “basic research is systemic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products in mind.  It includes all scientific study and experimentation directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge and understanding in those fields of the physical, engineering, environmental and life sciences related to long-term national security needs.  It is farsighted, high-payoff research that provides the basis for technological progress.” The DoD’s basic research program invests broadly in many specific fields to ensure that it has early cognizance of new scientific knowledge. (http://www.arl.army.mil/www/pages/8/research/BAA11_26.pdf)
  • Physics Frontiers Centers (PFC) supports university-based centers and institutes where the collective efforts of a larger group of individuals can enable transformational advances in the most promising research areas. The program is designed to foster major breakthroughs at the intellectual frontiers of physics by providing needed resources such as combinations of talents, skills, disciplines, and/or specialized infrastructure, not usually available to individual investigators or small groups, in an environment in which the collective efforts of the larger group can be shown to be seminal to promoting significant progress in the science and the education of students. Activities supported through the program are in all sub-fields of physics within the purview of the Division of Physics: atomic, molecular, optical, plasma, elementary particle, nuclear, astro-, gravitational, and biological physics. Interdisciplinary projects at the interface between these physics areas and other disciplines and physics sub-fields, e.g. biology, quantum information science, mathematical physics, condensed matter physics, and emerging areas of physics are also included. The successful PFC activity will demonstrate: (1) the potential for a profound advance in physics; (2) creative, substantive activities aimed at enhancing education, diversity, and public outreach; (3) potential for broader impacts, e.g., impacts on other field(s) and benefits to society; (4) a synergy or value-added rationale that justifies a center- or institute-like approach. (http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2010/nsf10560/nsf10560.htm)
  • The Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program has been developed to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with interdisciplinary backgrounds, deep knowledge in chosen disciplines, and technical, professional, and personal skills. The program is intended to establish new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. It is also intended to facilitate diversity in student participation and preparation, and to contribute to a world-class, broadly inclusive, and globally engaged science and engineering workforce. Building upon the IGERT platform, the purpose of this IGERT solicitation is to support new models in graduate education in which students are engaged in an environment that supports innovation to learn through hands-on experience how their own research may contribute in new ways to benefit society and to learn the processes for the successful implementation of such contributions. (http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11533/nsf11533.htm)