The Arizona Desert Lamp

White Paper: Arizona Research Laboratories

Posted in UA Transformation Plan by Connor Mendenhall on 19 October 2008

Most college students are pretty good at writing five pages without actually saying anything. If the white paper submitted by Arizona Research Laboratories is any indication, professors are even better.

One full page of this proposal is dedicated to outlining the laboratories’ successful projects and emphasizing just how “interdisciplinary” they are. This is true: ARL is a catch-all department for a number of interesting enterprises that span traditional departments, including the folks who helped win Al Gore’s Nobel, a lab that builds wheeled robo-moths, and the department in charge of our nuclear reactor

Yep, we’ve got a nuclear reactor. News to me, too.

The paper then spends the next two pages outlining two transformation scenarios:

  1.  The Neurobiology program moves to a School of Mind, Brain, and Behavior while the Biomedical Engineering program shifts to the College of Engineering. Everything else stays the same. The labs remain very interdisciplinary.
  2. Everything stays the same. The labs remain very interdisciplinary.

The authors throw in a budget chart, say “interdisciplinary” a few more times and call it a report. 

If there’s one thing this paper elucidates, it’s the word-magic of the term “interdisciplinary,” which seems to be a Jedi mind trick for college administrators. But what sort of worthwhile research isn’t interdisciplinary in some sense? Isn’t that the point of scientific inquiry—to try and understand new stuff with new methods?

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One Response

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  1. […] the idea of “mathematical sciences” seems to hint at the sort of synergistic interdisciplinarian-ism that the University seems to love so […]


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