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Columbia UniversityThe President's Report 2002-2007
Interdisciplinary Thinking
(< Continued from the first Academics page)

As home to Columbia’s Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative, the center, to be located at the University’s future Manhattanville campus, will bring together the greatest minds using the latest technology and scientific methods to make discoveries at the juncture of many scientific and academic fields.

“The center will explore the gaps in our knowledge between the functioning of the brain and mind at the genetic and molecular level, and human behavior as studied at the level of the social sciences, the professions, and the arts and humanities,” President Bollinger said in announcing the establishment of the center in March 2006. “This will involve creating opportunities to find linkages among virtually all disciplines, since, at a profound level, we all study how the mind works.”

A key part of the University’s long-term campus expansion in Manhattanville will provide the opportunity to add approximately 500 new researchers, who will collaborate across traditional academic boundaries to address the signal challenges of our time. The first phase will bring the schools of business and the arts together, alongside teams of scientists at the Jerome L. Greene Science Center. The second phase will create spaces for tackling such interdisciplinary challenges as:

  • Systems biology: Through the crosscutting research of chemists, biologist, geneticists, and computer scientists, we believe we can uncover the ancient mysteries of life and death while also enabling doctors to study a patient’s unique genetic code to prevent disease.
  • Sustainability: Scientists at our Earth Institute and others will research climate change and identify new ways to reverse its tide. Their work could generate alternative energy sources, reduce carbon levels in rivers and oceans, perfect bio fuel cells, and determine how living beings can be more responsible stewards of our planet.

Opportunities for interdisciplinary inquiry have flourished outside science as well. When the study of jazz became part of the undergraduate Core Curriculum in 2003-2004, Columbia’s innovative Center for Jazz Studies came to deserved prominence. Its innovative, aggressively multidisciplinary approach has been a key part of the center’s identity and mission since it first evolved out of an informal jazz study group of scholars, journalists, musicians, writers, and others who met to discuss jazz as musical form and as cultural phenomenon, one that has influenced all aspects of American culture—dance, photography, journalism, painting, literature, spirituality, and history.

The center became a formal academic entity in 1999 with funding from the Ford Foundation and now annually offers at least four major interdisciplinary courses in jazz, plus a lecture and concert series for scholars, artists, musicians, and the public.

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