Thomas J. Meade, Eileen M. Foell Professor of Cancer Research
August 20, 2012
Provost, Northwestern University
633 Clark Street
Evanston, IL 60208
I am writing to share my experiences at Northwestern University regarding the critical nature of “campus design” in facilitating interdisciplinary research. The plan that was presented to me in 2001 to address these issues was a key factor in my decision to leave the California Institute of Technology and join Northwestern University. As a member of three schools, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Feinberg School of Medicine, and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, I can emphatically state the proximity of research facilities and respective colleagues is integral to the success of our endeavors.
A key component during my nine years has been the physical layout of the research facilities, including chemistry, biology and engineering. The line-of-site (LOS) principle is a crucial but frequently underappreciated aspect to the scientific endeavor. When scientists representing numerous disciplines have the opportunity to come together in an environment that stimulates interdisciplinary research, not merely lip service, problems are solved that cannot be in any other way.
In other words, connectivity of the various groups from more than a dozen sub-disciplines is not merely convenient, it is an imperative. After more than 12 years at Caltech, I was involved with three other research groups in collaborative research from two departments. Since my arrival at Northwestern, I have 17 collaborations from five departments, and it is clear that the LOS I enjoy with colleagues and importantly, shared facilities, is responsible for this increase. As a result, my level of external funding increased 74 percent since 2002 ($1.88 million annually) which supports 39 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral fellows.
Thomas J. Meade, Ph.D.
Eileen M. Foell Professor of Cancer Research