Stanford launches interdisciplinary initiative in the biological sciences

You accidentally bump into someone in the lab or hallway and learn something that changes the course of your own research.It's an experience many faculty and students share, says James Spudich, professor of biochemistry and developmental biology.

"But is there a way to facilitate the accidental coming together of individuals from different disciplines?" he wants to know. "Is there a way to increase the rate of interactions at the global scale?"

Spudich and an eclectic group of faculty members from the schools of Engineering, Humanities and Sciences, and Medicine not only think it is possible, but feel that the course of the much-heralded revolution in the biological sciences makes it imperative. They are backing an ambitious new interdisciplinary initiative, called Bio-X, that is specifically designed to strengthen the links between faculty and students in medical research, engineering, chemistry, physics and biology.

Not to be mistaken for the unknown or alien "X" of TV's popular "X Files," the new undertaking is conceived as an eclectic mix of clinical researchers and basic scientists sharing insights - but with no predetermined agenda. Last month, Spudich, the Douglass M. and Nola Leishman Professor of Cardiovascular Disease, was designated the head of a four-person Bio-X executive committee that will oversee its development.

Organizationally, Bio-X is an attempt to supplement the departmental research structure with an intellectual hothouse designed to nurture cross-pollination of the disciplines.

"If it all sounds a little vague, that is because we are trying to bring together people who wouldn't otherwise talk to each other, and encourage them to collaborate on projects that wouldn't otherwise be done," says Charles Kruger, dean of research. "So it is impossible to predict what everybody will be doing three years from now."

But Kruger adds that Bio-X "may be as important to Stanford as the decisions made by Terman and his contempora

Contact: David F. Salisbury
Stanford University

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