About the Institute

The Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute promotes collaborative research leveraging the value of Colgate's liberal arts alignment.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Harvey Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute at Colgate University is to foster the creation of new knowledge that is obtainable only through the development of sustained interdisciplinary research. The institute supports internal and external collaborations among Colgate faculty and their collaborators who bring expertise from disparate disciplines to bear on current and emerging scientific problems that remain intractable to the methods used within a single discipline.

The institute also encourages interdisciplinary approaches to learning through innovative curricular and research opportunities for students that may arise from the pursuit of interdisciplinary research projects.

Significance of Interdisciplinary Science

In the 21st century, the frontiers of scientific inquiry will increasingly be found at the boundaries of the traditional disciplines. The dynamic areas of environmental science, biophysics, planetary science, biochemistry, and nanoscience are examples of such interdisciplinary frontiers. To study complex systems, scientists will need expertise and the ability to forge collaborative relationships that span multiple disciplines. The preparation of future scientists must also be mindful of growing demands for increasingly broad training, as today’s students must be able to address tomorrow’s problems that will often lie at the frontiers and boundaries of science.

Colgate is well positioned to embrace new frontiers of discovery and learning. The institute's commitment to the promotion of interdisciplinary science on campus strengthens the university's standing as a leader in scientific inquiry and undergraduate science education. This was the goal of the institute's founder, Harvey M. Picker '36.

History of the Institute

Objectives

The primary goal of the institute is to enhance faculty scholarship in interdisciplinary areas leading to the generation of new knowledge. An important secondary goal is to encourage interdisciplinary approaches to learning. The actions of the institute are guided by these goals, and the additional objectives listed below:

  • An increase in interdisciplinary publications in peer-reviewed journals and an increase in professional presentations.
  • An increase in submission and success of extramural proposals, particularly collaborative proposals.
  • An increase in the percentage of newly enrolled students who indicate an interest in concentrating in the sciences and mathematics.
  • An increase in the number of students enrolled in science and mathematics courses, and in the number of graduating concentrators in the sciences and mathematics.
  • An increase in the number of science and mathematics graduates who pursue graduate and professional study.
  • An increase in interdisciplinarity in the science curriculum as measured by the introduction of new interdisciplinary science and mathematics courses.

In working toward these goals, the institute advances opportunities for high-quality faculty scholarship, facilitates communication and collaboration between Colgate faculty and experts at other institutions, and further raises the profile of research in the sciences and mathematics at Colgate.

The institute supports internal and external collaborations among Colgate faculty and their collaborators who bring expertise from different disciplines to bear on current and emerging scientific problems that remain intractable to the methods used within a single discipline. The institute also encourages interdisciplinary approaches to learning through innovative curricular and research opportunities for students that may arise from the pursuit of interdisciplinary research projects.

Faculty Awards 2018-2019

The institute has awarded funding to Spencer D. Kelly, Professor of Psychology and Brain Sciences, and Yukari Hirata, Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures have received an award of $26,000 for their project "Accentuating the Positive: Can Co-Speech Hand Gestures Help Judgments of Accent in a Foreign Language?". The project will investigate whether speakers of a foreign language can use culturally appropriate hand gestures to help make their accents easier to understand to native speakers. This work will also explore whether hand gestures can reduce some of the negative stigma associated with non-native accents during cross-cultural communication.

Erin Cooley, Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Lauren Philbrook, Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, William Cipolli, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, and collaborators Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi (University of Virginia), and Ryan Lei (Haverford College) have received a two-year award for $160,000 for their project "Why does rich = White and poor = Black in the minds of United States' citizens? Race-based class assumptions and their consequences for increasing racial resentment and race-related health disparities in the United States.” Using a multi-method approach, they will investigate the psychological processes that link race with social class as well as the psychological and physical consequences of these associations. Such findings should advance the scientific understanding of why the macro-level race wealth gap exists, while also illuminating unique forms of discrimination that may be experienced by poor people of different races.  

Frank M Frey, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, Peter R Scull, Professor of Geography, and their collaborators Birungi Mutahunga, Nkalubo Julius, Kuule Yusufu, Oloya Sam, Nahabwe Haven, and Isabirye Gideon (Bwindi Community Hospital, Uganda) have received a two-year award for $130,000 for their project "Prevalence and predictors of antimicrobial resistance in clinical- and community-acquired upper respiratory bacterial samples in children under 5 in southwestern Uganda". They will study the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in pathogens causing upper respiratory illness in southwestern Uganda and identify factors associated with this resistance profile through a consideration of socio-demographic factors, access to and distribution of antibiotic drugs in the community, and unprescribed antibiotic use. 

Linda Y. Tseng, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Physics, and her collaborators Pitiporn Asvapathanagul (California State University, Long Beach) and Phillip B. Gedalanga, (California State University, Fullerton) have received a two-year award for $116,000 for their project "Investigating the fate and transport of microplastics and their ecological impacts in natural and engineered systems".  Microplastics are small plastic particles and are found ubiquitously in the environment.  Despite concerns of microplastics in the environment, the connection between their transport and the impact of these microplastics is not well-known and could have a large influence on human and ecological systems. This project intends to explore the transport and impact of microplastics.

Contact Information

Dan Schult
Institute director
(315) 228-7347 
dschult@colgate.edu
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