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Bridging Disciplines, Generating Solutions

At the BRIDGE Symposium, grad students and postdocs discussed creative bridges across disciplines that could lead to improvements in the economy, environment and people’s lives.

BRIDGE Symposium participants standing at the front of a room

Demonstrating the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, nine pairs of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from 12 NC State University departments recently presented their strategies for bringing different fields together for research to benefit the economy, the environment and humanity.

At the first annual N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative’s BRIDGE Symposium, held Feb. 22, students shared projects ranging from using artificial intelligence for improved strawberry production to employing quantum computing for drug discovery.

The participants also had the opportunity to network with each other and with representatives from area companies and from North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

Terri Long, the N.C PSI platform director for and workforce development, said the symposium’s purpose was twofold.

“We really wanted this symposium to focus on interdisciplinarity, and having students present their work as a team was one way to show their skills as team players and as great communicators, which a lot of employers really seek from our graduates,” Long said. “I hope it also gave students and postdocs an opportunity to think outside the box in terms of who they could work with and to think more broadly about the applicability of their research.”

Critical thinking can tie research together and make a significant impact in the world in more ways than working individually.

First- and second-place teams won cash prizes funded by the N.C. PSI. Coming in first were Harleen Kaur Sandhu, a postdoc with the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, and Nakul Deshpande, a postdoc with the Department of Physics. Their talk was titled, “Nuclear Twinning and Hill Physics Winning.”

Second-place winners were Tyrik Cooper, of the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, and Alejandro Ibrahim, of the Department of History. They discussed intercropping fruits and vegetables with loblolly pines to help farmers and consumers, particularly those of African American descent.

Participants said the symposium gave them the chance to think in new ways about their future efforts.

Sandhu, for example, said she gained invaluable insights from fellow participants and their collaborative endeavors.

“Exposure to successful interdisciplinary research not only offers young scholars, like myself, concrete examples but also highlights potential applications for their own future research projects,” she said.

Cooper said, “What I’ve gained from this experience is that no matter the department an individual is from … critical thinking can tie research together and make a significant impact in the world in more ways than working individually.”

Thanks to symposium judges from BASF, Bayer, Cooperative Extension, Elo Life Sciences, Hoofprint Biome, Novozymes and SAS.