Sunday, April 4, 2010

Collaborative efforts

This weekend was CREOL's annual Optics Day, an educational outreach event for students and adults of all educational levels. The purpose of Optics Day is to educate the public about the benefits of optics and photonics-based technologies and how their lives are shaped by the science that we do. In addition to the usual day-long event, the SPIE student chapter hosted a small symposium for graduate students from nearby universities, such as Florida Atlantic University and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

During the panel discussion at the symposium I asked a question of the speakers concerning collaborative research efforts. All the panelists agreed that diversity and interdisciplinary research is very important to science today, especially given that many fields have become highly specialized and esoteric towards scientists outside of the field. However, I was interested to know what all the researchers in a collaborative effort need to have in common to produce good research.

Dr. Michael Bass, from CREOL, suggested that personalities have to be compatible. This includes work ethic, vision, and the individual desires of the collaborators. Dr. Alex Vitkin, from the University of Toronto, suggested that possessing knowledge of a wide range of topics, such as that obtained from a physics education, is very important to be able to communicate with the other researchers. However, he cautioned that we can not be generalists; we must specialize in one area. Otherwise, we risk not being able to contribute to the effort.

It seems to me that in order to contribute to interdisciplinary research, I might wish to have one niche area that I can claim a specialization in.