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Stanford Interdisciplinary

Where collaboration is a way of life

At a time when collaboration in research is becoming a buzzword Stanford has an environment where reaching out is a fact of life; where faculty routinely seek diverse partners on the path to discovery and innovation. This environment arose in part through the co-location of the schools of Humanities & Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Earth Sciences, Business, Education and Law on a campus whose walkable size encourages exploration. Weaving across the traditional schools are interdisciplinary institutes that span departments and focus disparate ways of thinking on common problems. 

Carla Shatz, director of Stanford Bio-X, has said collaborations arise when two people agree to talk. One faculty member has to initiate a conversation and the other needs to say "Yes."

Stanford facilitates that "yes" through its students, who are encouraged to take on research that spans tranditional boundaries, and through its designated interdisciplinary institutes, buildings that promote conversation, and support for faculty carrying out collaborative research. 

This history of supporting collaboration goes back more than 30 years when the first interdisciplinary institutes were created to support areas where tools and ways of approaching problems spilled over the edges of individual disciplines and were revolutionizing research. Through strategic programs that bring faculty together, those institutes removed barriers that prevented new ideas in one discipline from being applied to other areas of research. 

When those barriers break down, discoveries emerge in areas that are critical for solving real world problems in the environment, our health and global security and that expand our understanding of the world and ourselves. 

Stanford’s designated interdisciplinary institutes span school boundaries, providing a physical and intellectual intersection between disciplines where new ideas emerge and innovative research across the humanities and sciences can happen.

Interdisciplinary majors and research opportunities prepare our students for success  within research, scholarship and the workplace, where the ability to think across boundaries is increasingly important for success.
Stanford has seven schools on one campus, including professional schools in Law, Business, Education and Medicine, providing ample opportunity for faculty from various disciplines to encounter each other and collaborate.

At the intersection of disciplines is where new ideas emerge and innovative research happens. Some of the discoveries to come out of that research include potential energy sources, medical technologies and solutions to global health or economic concerns.

Buildings that increase chance encounters draw faculty together around common problems:

The groundbreaking Clark Center, which placed faculty from different departments side by side, defined a new model for how to create spaces that encourage collaboration.