“We are not students of some subject matter, but students of problems. And problems may cut right across the borders of any subject matter or discipline.” -Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge
Today, we face many challenges in marshaling our limited and depleting resources to provide for an increasing population, as the world becomes smaller and flatter. As we face issues such as social inequities, economic disparities, food shortages, lack of clean drinking water, morbid obesity, resource depletion, environmental degradation or global warming, we are becoming increasingly aware of the sheer complexity of these problems. As Karl Popper eloquently said, problems such as these do not fall under the purview of one single discipline. In the recent decades, the growth of scientific knowledge and rapid expansion of technological tools has helped experts from different disciplines collaborate and bring their unique perspectives and discipline specific knowledge and tools to attack these problems. The key to address such complex problems is to break free from our discipline-specific silos and pool our collective knowledge – to embrace and encourage an interdisciplinary approach.
The Graduate School at Virginia Tech supports several Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Programs (IGEPs). Through these IGEPs, Virginia Tech promotes interdisciplinary research, where each IGEP focused on a specific societal and technological challenge. The Sustainable Nanotechnolgy (SuN) IGEP is focused on addressing sustainability issues in the burgeoning field of nanoscience and nanotechnology, so as to “proactively direct the field towards sustainable design”.
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