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The secret to managing interdisciplinary research

This winter’s GradProSkills conversation series explores the fundamentals of cross-departmental collaboration
January 29, 2014
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By Erik Leijon

Major research is all about major cooperation, according to MIGS co-founder Frank Chalk. Major research is all about major cooperation, according to MIGS co-founder Frank Chalk. | Photo by Concordia University


When it comes to giving graduate students advice on how to build an interdisciplinary institute from the ground up, few people are more qualified than History Professor Frank Chalk.

Chalk, a co-founder Concordia’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), is among the Concordia faculty members who will be sharing their expertise at this winter’s Graduate and Professional Skills (GradProSkills) Research Conversations series. His talk on “Multidisciplinary Research Projects and Building an Institute” takes place on Friday, February 28. 

Last term, the inaugural conversation series examined research creation; this winter’s focus will be on the management of multidisciplinary research projects.

The sessions also include “Multidisciplinary Research Projects and Working with International Teams” on Friday, February 7, led by Van Suong Hoa, director of the Concordia Centre for Composites, and Robert Fews, director of the Concordia Institute for Aerospace Design and Innovation and aerospace special advisor to the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science; and “Building Communities of Thought: Questions Around Publications and Exhibitions,” on Friday, March 14, led by Erin Manning, university research chair in relational art and philosophy in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Adrian Tsang, director of the Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics, spoke about “Multidisciplinary Research Projects and Grant Writing” on January 24.

As always, the research conversations take place in a relaxed, informal setting. Chalk says he’s looking forward to meeting ambitious grad students at his session.

“I’ll be focusing on the lessons learned from the development of MIGS,” Chalk says. “It’s the arc of half of my life: from 1978 — when Kurt Jonassohn and I prepared to teach the first undergraduate course in the world that looked at the history and sociology of genocide from ancient times to the present — through to the founding of MIGS in 1986, and up to today.”

MIGS went on to become Canada’s foremost authority on genocide studies; it collaborates with numerous international partners. Cooperation is a major component of building a successful institute, Chalk says, and it’s a subject he intends to cover.

“When we started MIGS, we had to master our own new subject,” he says. “We studied the literature of several disciplines in order to do that. We were reaching out to fields we knew nothing about in the beginning, like ancient history or medieval history, and the whole time, our colleagues here at Concordia were wonderful.”

“Multidisciplinary Research Projects and Building an Institute” takes place on Friday, February 28 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Room MB-2.210 of the John Molson School of Business (MB) Building (1450 Guy St.) on the Sir George Williams Campus. Admission is free of charge. Registration is required.

Since its launch in August 2011, Concordia University's Graduate and Professional Skills (GradProSkills) training program has delivered nearly 900 free workshops with its partners, and more than 14,000 completed registrations.

Learn more about “Multidisciplinary Research Projects and Building an Institute,” and see the full GradProSkills Research Conversations series schedule.


Grad students: Tell us about your research … in three minutes

Got big ideas? Good. Now try to describe them in three minutes.

This April, Concordia is hosting the 3-Minute Thesis and My Project 180, two competitions that challenge thesis and non-thesis students to distill their research down to the simplest level by presenting a clear, engaging and, most of all, concise summary of it in 180 seconds.

If you’re a master’s student or a PhD candidate, and you haven’t graduated by March 1, 2014, show us what you’ve got. Concordia’s faculty will be watching.
 



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