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UCLA Magazine Winter 2002
It's not your parents dorm anymore
Outside the Ivory Tower
A beautiful Mind
The Long March
The New Scientists
Critical Care

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Winter 2002
The New Scientists

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“The old image of the scientist who labors away for years alone in the laboratory until he yells ‘Eureka! I’ve found it!’ doesn’t exist anymore,” says Robin Garrell, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Discoveries are now happening in-between fields, in collaboration with others from different fields and by combining concepts. So it’s important that we now have scientists who can think beyond the boundaries of their own training.” For these hybrid scientists, the traditional barriers that separate, for example, a neuroscientist from an electrical engineer, or a computer scientist from a molecular biologist, simply don’t exist.

At UCLA, this new cadre is nurtured by graduate programs established with $8 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to build the future intellectual capital of the United States. These future scientists are being educated “to have a broader perspective while maintaining their depth in at least one traditional field of science or engineering,” says Paul (Wyn) Jennings, program director for traineeships in the NSF’s Division of Graduate Education.

Similar NSF training programs have been set up at 56 U.S. universities, but UCLA is one of only five schools to receive five-year grants for three Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) programs — in neuroengineering, bioinformatics and materials creation.

The university has received this high level of funding, Jennings says, because it has demonstrated that its researchers can work and teach across traditional disciplinary lines. “Many institutions have cross-department research, but only a few such as UCLA have the ability and flexibility to educate across traditional boundaries,” he says. “That is what makes UCLA great in this program, along with their excellent scientists and engineers.”

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