Meeting of the Minds

Interdisciplinary Programs: Forums for Innovation and Collaboration

If you walked around the School of Engineering (SOE) in the early 1990s, you’d find chemical
engineers using microscopes in their labs, mechanical engineers building devices in workshops, and computer scientists writing code on computers in their offices.

Today you can find all three working in the same lab on the same project, often accompanied by physicists, biologists, physicians —– even artists. To help solve interrelated global challenges, develop new technologies, and create economic opportunities, engineers and computer scientists are increasingly collaborating with those in other disciplines.

charles-fleddermann“Technology does not respect our traditional disciplinary boundaries,” saysCharles Fleddermann, associate dean for academic affairs. “In the past 20 years there has been a real acceleration in cross-disciplinary efforts.”

Just as an interdisciplinary approach is now the norm in research and industry, it’s also an integral part of an SOE education. Today the school participates in six interdisciplinary degree programs as well as many other interdepartmental opportunities for students. “These programs let students broaden their knowledge and skills by working with students and faculty from a wide range of disciplines,” says Fleddermann.

Students aren’t the only ones benefitting from the SOE’s interdisciplinary focus. “By developing
these educational programs, we’re fostering New Mexico’s economic development,” explains Fleddermann.

“Plus, we have opportunities that other places don’t because we can interact with the national labs that are here.”

The following four interdisciplinary programs reflect unique opportunities for students to learn new approaches from multiple disciplines, participate in cutting-edge research, and apply
what they learn in both emerging and established career fields.