Interdisciplinary Research, Part 1
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the research universities with a track record of successful interdisciplinary research practices. The MIT Lincoln Laboratory is made up of professionals from seven major academic discipline, which are Electrical Engineering (33%), Computer Science and Computer Engineering (16%), Physics (16%), Biology, Chemistry, Meteorology, and Materials Science (11%), Mechanical Engineering (8%), Mathematics (6%), Aeronautics/Astronautics (5%), and others (5%).
MIT Interdisciplinary Research Programs: Overview
- According to the University, "MIT encourages interdisciplinary research across department and school boundaries while focusing on tackling great societal challenges."
- MIT offers 8 degrees and 17 minors under the undergraduate interdisciplinary program and 20 degrees and two graduate concentrations under the graduate interdisciplinary program.
- Due to the vast interdisciplinary programs offered by the university, we will be focusing the research on the MIT Lincoln Laboratory interdisciplinary research program.
MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MIT-LL)
- The MIT Lincoln Laboratory is made up of professionals from seven major academic discipline, which are Electrical Engineering (33%), Computer Science and Computer Engineering (16%), Physics (16%), Biology, Chemistry, Meteorology, and Materials Science (11%), Mechanical Engineering (8%), Mathematics (6%), Aeronautics/Astronautics (5%), and others (5%).
- MIT Lincoln Laboratory "researches and develops a broad array of advanced technologies to meet critical national security needs." Its value proposition is based on its focus on building operational prototypes of the unique systems designed by the laboratory.
- The program claims to possess an innovative R&D team with exceptional technical abilities and creativity in cross-disciplinary teams. This helps them to develop advanced technologies for diverse needs such as providing secure communications, defending against missile threats, monitoring activity in space, and inventing biomedical devices.
- The research topics handled at MIT Lincoln Laboratory include engineering, sensors, information extraction, communications, and decision support, cyber-security, bioengineering, autonomous systems, and homeland protection.
- MIT Lincoln researchers work in cross-disciplinary teams that leverage the latest technological advances in the development of innovative solutions.
- After an exhaustive search through the MIT Lincoln Laboratory website, MIT-LL people and culture site, and other publicly available information about the organization, there was no mention of an exclusive protocol or policy put in place by the university of how the laboratory staff works together.
- According to the organization, "Lincoln Laboratory's internal organizational structure encourages the interchange of ideas between staff members and management. This structure includes just three primary management levels: the Director's Office, the division heads, and the group leaders." The Director's Office reports into MIT leadership."
- Lincoln Laboratory is organized into "technical divisions and service departments under the governance of a Director, Associate Director, Assistant Director for Operations, and the Director's Office Staff. The Laboratory reports to the MIT Office of the President."
- According to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the research and development program is funded by the federal government, sponsored by the Department of Defense and focused on national security. All funding for the Lincoln Laboratory comes through Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC).
- The only type of funding allowed for MIT-LL is Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) funds. However, the use of "non-RDT&E funds is considered an exception that requires explanation, documentation, and justification."
- A breakdown of the $1.109 billion spent by MIT-LL on the different interdisciplinary research areas is provided herein. In 2019, the laboratory also won a $2,038,147,146 funding from the United States Air Force through FFRDC.
- A key takeaway from the MIT-LL that can be applied by another research university looking to form their interdisciplinary research teams is for such research university to align its interdisciplinary research to areas and disciplines with high funding from government agencies and departments, academia & not-for-profits, or private companies, in order to have a reliable and long-term source of funding.
To determine a successful interdisciplinary research university, we selected the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) due to its multi-year track record of working across departments, significant research funding ($1.109 billion in 2019), over 150 years of interdisciplinary research experience, and track records of achievements by MIT Lincoln Laboratory.