Education - Page 2 - Collaboration by design fosters teamwork

- Page 2
Collaboration by design fosters teamwork
New facilities for innovative research and learning encourage working across disciplines

By E. Rose Scarff, Contributing Writer

As the largest building in the University of Maryland system, the new School of Medicine Research Building: Health Sciences Facility III on its Baltimore campus would make news for that fact alone. Being a glass-clad building among so many others of brick is also unique. But it is its design for collaborative medical research that really makes it stand apart.

“The pace of our progress was limited by our space,” says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A. and dean of medicine, and the driving force behind this new facility. He was able to convince legislators and others that they couldn’t afford not to build. Besides the new research that would be done in the building and the federal research funds that it would bring into the state, it would also create employment opportunities on many levels, from lab technicians to administrative assistants and other support staff.

Until Health Sciences Facility III was built, researchers were spread out in different departments and buildings, and many of them still will be. The new building is intended for new research and new research groups are beginning to fill eight of the 10 floors. “We left two floors unfinished,” says Reece, “so we have room to grow.”

The state-of-the-art laboratories will facilitate work on treatments for three big health problems: heart disease, cancer and diabetes. “There are three main approaches to looking at the mechanism of a disease: diagnostics, therapeutics and cures,” says Reece. The researchers who will be using Health Sciences Facility III will be M.D.s, Ph.D.s and M.D./Ph.D.s who will be taking an inter-disciplinary approach to common goals. “No one person has all the knowledge,” says Reese. “We get better outcomes and new breakthroughs when working collaboratively.”

Reece has been able to recruit talent from across the country because of the high level of attraction of the thriving existing research and the environment of the new space. But opportunities for discovery medicine in this collaborative atmosphere is a big draw. “From the public perspective, we all get certain diseases and we all want cures,” says Reece. “What we do here is discovery medicine. Constant research and enriching and enhancing what we know.”

At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) campus a new Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building (ILSB) is under construction and set to open in the summer of 2019. It is designed to facilitate interaction among the people who teach and study there. “We wanted to break down the silos,” says William R. LaCourse, Ph.D., dean of natural and mathematical sciences at UMBC, speaking of the way research has traditionally been done: chemists in one lab, biologists in another, etc.

“For the students, the way the future works when they get into the biotechnology industry, you work in teams,” says LaCourse. “Everywhere you work will be with individuals from different backgrounds.” The ILSB is designed to facilitate teamwork. The open atrium on the ground floor and gathering spaces on each floor are designed for both formal and informal exchanges between faculty and students.

In designing the space, they focused on the needs of the biotechnology industry. Besides classrooms, teaching labs and research labs, there will be a Good Manufacturing Processes lab training facility. There is space for animal researchers to do their work. There will be a project room that students can sign up to use to brainstorm ideas.

The classrooms are furnished with tables rather than tiers and the labs have open workbenches – all to facilitate communication. “As you go through every floor, researchers will be working together across boundaries, even internationally,” says LaCourse. “There will be space for visitors to come and have a place because it’s shared space, not individually owned space.”

The goal is to attract more students to STEM subjects. “We will train our students to be ready to go into the biotechnology work force that’s all over Maryland,” says LaCourse. “We want them to learn how to solve problems, so we will have active learning classrooms. We will give them the responsibility of learning among themselves. We will guide them, but they will learn best by doing it themselves.”

Because the new building will bring together faculty and students from different disciplines and different places, “This will bring a culture change,” says LaCourse. “It’s going to change the way we do things.”

At Loyola University Maryland, they are changing the way they are doing things even without a designated building to do it in. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) has been created with gifts from alumni. The CIE will have four areas of focus (see sidebar).

“The Center is a platform, not a building,” says Wendy Bolger, M.B.A., and inaugural director of the CIE.“The Center is student driven and student led.The whole center will be based on how engaged the students are and their interest in the work.”

Among those offerings is a new this year innovation entrepreneurship minor with several tracks. “When I talk to people about innovation,” says Bolger, “it is that innovation is for everyone. You don’t have to be a business major or an engineer. Innovation is a really big umbrella. I want there to be opportunities for a lot of people. I think everybody has something to learn from human centered design or design thinking.”

The physical spaces where this design thinking happens are currently located in various departments all over campus. In addition, there is a maker center in the library and another is planned for the dorms. There are plans to renovate an existing building for a meeting and collaborative space.

Although both Bolger and the CIE are new this year, they will continue to grow programs already in place. “There are university innovation fellowships and those are ongoing,” says Bolger. “There is a new social impact fellowship and twelve students have been selected this year. They will be using design thinking skills to solve problems through equity inclusion and diversity.”

Another social impact opportunity is in the schools. “We have a group of students volunteering this semester to teach innovation entrepreneurship to Baltimore fifth graders,” says Bolger. This builds on Loyola’s strong connection with Baltimore schools.

“A big part of my job is to make a connection to Baltimore and all the innovation that’s happening now,” says Bolger.“One of the main attractions of the job to me was there is such a strong culture around social justice and activism already on campus, so I wasn’t going to have to create that.” •

Collaboration opportunities

The schools featured here are expanding research and training undergraduates to build better lives for themselves, for Baltimore and for the world.

The University of Maryland’s new School of Medicine Research Building: Health Sciences Facility III, is beginning to fill up with researchers working on discovery science. The Program in Personalized and Genomic Medicine researchers are already in the building. The Institute for Genome Sciences and the Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health and Brain Development (CERCH) will soon be joining them. CERCH is moving here from the University of Pennsylvania.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)’s new Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building (ILSB), which will open next summer, is designed to bring faculty and students in the life sciences together in a collaborative workspace. UMBC has had research projects where it was hard to get everyone together in one place or the project was so large they didn’t have the space to accommodate it properly. The ILSB will give them the space and tools needed for the collaborative teaching, learning and research projects of the future.

Loyola University Maryland’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) will have four areas of focus. 1) An Idea Lab that will be available for prototyping student and faculty creations quickly. 2) The Loyola Innovation Accelerator, which invests in ideas, business practices or products that create capital and positive social change. 3) The Baltipreneurs’ Institute through which Loyola faculty and alumni help underserved entrepreneurs. 4) An entrepreneurship major and minor. The minor has four tracks: social entrepreneurship, creative entrepreneurship, tech ventures: engineering track and tech ventures: sciences track. •