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Thinking Outside The Box: A Novel Interdisciplinary Research And Education Program In Environmental Engineering And Sciences

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Interdisciplinary Approach to Env. Engrg

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1204.1 - 7.1204.15



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Paper Authors

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Maya Place

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Markus Flury

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Jennifer Shaltanis

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Geoff Puzon

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Brent M. Peyton

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James Petersen

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Candis Claiborn

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 2251

Thinking Outside the Box: A Novel Interdisciplinary Research and Education Program in Environmental Engineering and Science

Maya Place,1,5 Geoffrey J. Puzon,2,5 Jennifer Shaltanis,3,5 Candis Claiborn,3,5 Markus Flury,4,5 Brent M. Peyton,1,5 and James N. Petersen5

1 Chemical Engineering Department/ 2School of Molecular Biosciences/ 3 Civil and Environmental Engineering Department/ 4Department of Crop and Soil Sciences/ 5Center for Multiphase Environmental Research, P.O. Box 642719, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-2719

1. Abstract Traditionally, graduate education is accomplished within established disciplinary boundaries. In addition, the complete education of the next generation of research professionals is often viewed merely as a byproduct of immersion in an intensive research experience. Although this approach is often successful, it has shortcomings and can be improved. A novel program has been developed within the Center for Multiphase Environmental Research at Washington State University, catalyzed by an IGERT grant from the National Science Foundation, which is designed to provide a more complete education for PhD environmental engineers and scientists. One of the most important outcomes of this program is the education of scientists and engineers who not only have depth in a single discipline, but also have a strong interdisciplinary background and a strong desire and ability to work with experts in other disciplines. The WSU program is thus highly interdisciplinary, with participants drawn from six academic programs in three colleges. In addition to the student’s major disciplinary classes and intensive research work, the program includes interdisciplinary course work; laboratory rotations; internships; experience mentoring younger professionals in both classroom and laboratory settings; a seminar series; and discussions of professional ethics. Here the program is described in general, with detailed descriptions of the series of three interdisciplinary courses. In all these courses, active learning is emphasized, rather than relying on conventional lecture format. These courses achieve several objectives: 1) they introduce students to approaches to scientific problems that they may not have encountered in their own discipline; 2) they leave students with an awareness of how a multidisciplinary viewpoint can improve research; 3) they sharpen students’ critical thinking skills; and 4) they expand the students’ resource bases by exposing the trainees to a network of “experts” outside their own disciplines. As the students participate in these activities, they develop relationships with their peers from other disciplines, view alternative approaches to environmental problems, and develop collaborations with researchers from other areas.

2. Introduction Traditionally, graduate education is accomplished within established disciplinary boundaries. As articulated by Golde and Gallagher,1 three features of the doctoral educational system have led to

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Place, M., & Flury, M., & Shaltanis, J., & Puzon, G., & Peyton, B. M., & Petersen, J., & Claiborn, C. (2002, June), Thinking Outside The Box: A Novel Interdisciplinary Research And Education Program In Environmental Engineering And Sciences Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10814

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