Interdisciplinary Work in the Spotlight at Research Symposium

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

Make Plans: UTEP’s Interdisciplinary Research Symposium is April 24-25 in Union Building East and the El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center. All events are free, but registration is requested here.

UTEP’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP) is offering faculty, staff and graduate students engaged in or thinking about launching research across academic disciplines the chance to network at the second annual Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Symposium. The symposium will take place April 24–25 in the Union Complex and El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center.

All symposium events are free, but attendees must register in advance at this page. The theme of this year’s symposium is “Rewarding and Recognizing Interdisciplinary Research.”

Faculty and staff discussed interdisciplinary research at the first-ever IDR Symposium in April 2013. This year’s symposium includes graduate students and will take place April 24-25. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service
Faculty and staff discussed interdisciplinary research at the first-ever IDR Symposium in April 2013. This year’s symposium includes graduate students and will take place April 24-25. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

This year’s symposium seeks to build on the momentum of campus IDR activities that have included connection-building events and increased interest in interdisciplinary research funds. (Read about last year’s symposium here.)

“Before organic collaborations or projects can typically emerge, the opportunity for individuals interested in pursuing IDR or individuals already engaged in IDR to connect with each other in formal and informal settings is essential,” said Andrea Tirres, interdisciplinary network manager for the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP). Some of these partnerships start up immediately while others evolve after initial introductions or even re-introductions at the IDR-supported events that ORSP regularly presents.

The symposium provides the space for attendees to share successes and challenges with individuals ranging from this year’s keynote speaker Patricia Hurn, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research and innovation at The University of Texas System, to college deans, faculty peers and graduate students looking to hone their research expertise.

Those professionals seeking to stay informed can take advantage of the presentations and poster displays throughout the symposium that showcase the intriguing variety of interdisciplinary projects involving UTEP researchers on campus and abroad.

Graduate students in particular can take advantage of the symposium as a way to demonstrate their research to faculty with whom they may not already be engaged. For those students not currently involved in interdisciplinary research but who would like to become engaged, the symposium gives them an introduction to the concept of IDR, take in examples of successful projects and teams, and plant mental seeds about possibilities for future research.

The symposium begins with an opening reception from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at the Tomás Rivera Conference Center in Union Building East. Project posters will be on display for attendees to view and President Diana Natalicio will deliver a welcome at 4:30 p.m. All remaining events take place from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Friday, April 25, in the El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center, including registration, continental breakfast, flash presentations, interactive teamwork activities, and discussions on IDR programs and events on campus and UTEP’s Expertise Connector online portal. Provost Junius Gonzales and Vice President for Research and Sponsored Projects Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D., also will speak that morning.

Hurn, who is known for her ability to bring together diverse groups of faculty and leaders from outside the University to accomplish common research goals, will deliver the symposium’s lunchtime keynote address.

As principal investigator, Hurn has led multi-investigator initiatives, including program project grants and an NIH Training Program. Her educational background emphasizes trans-disciplinary training and a deep understanding of basic science, medicine and nursing. Hurn holds a bachelor’s and master’s in nursing, specializing in trauma and critical care. She earned a doctoral degree in physiology in 1990 from The Johns Hopkins University, followed by postdoctoral training in biomedical engineering. Hurn began her faculty career in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she attained the rank of full professor in 2003.

Following Hurn’s address and Q-and-A, table discussions led by college representatives will take place to encourage the discussion of interdisciplinary research. During this session, attendees will select a table based on the topic they would like to discuss. There, they’ll be able to ask questions and discuss those subjects with the table leaders.

Based on the success of last year’s pilot event, organizers of the IDR Symposium are working to keep it compelling and make sure it meets the needs of ever-evolving research methods. New offerings for 2014 include opening registration to graduate students and the addition of flash presentations – short, impactful presentations lasting approximately five minutes.

Scheduled flash presentations include “Novel Tools for Parasite Targeting and Delivery of a Chemotherapeutic Drug,” “International Security and Development” and “The Concept and Interdisciplinary Value of Place-Based Research.” Presenters include Rosa Maldonado, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences; Katja Michael, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry; Thomas Boland, Ph.D., professor of metallurgical and materials engineering; Gaspare Genna, Ph.D., associate professor of political science; and Josiah Heyman, Ph.D., professor of anthropology.

Posters on display will touch on topics including detecting endocrine-disrupting chemicals in municipal wastewater treatment processes, and how the breath can play a role in weight loss.

The 2014 IDR Symposium is sponsored by ORSP, the Office of the Provost, Cyber-ShARE Center of Excellence, Academic Technologies and the Graduate School.

“At UTEP, we’re working proactively to bring researchers together with their colleagues from other disciplines who share common interests,” said John Wiebe, Ph.D., associate provost and associate professor of psychology. “Some of the most innovative research conducted today starts when a scholar who is an expert in a content domain is exposed to new theories and methods by a scholar in another discipline who studies the same domain.”