When it comes to graduate school, most people’s first thoughts jump to experts in training in a narrow field of study, but further consideration might reveal the truth – graduate school, in fact research and teaching in general, is very reliant on collaboration.  It is a key component that differentiates the good scholars from the best, and is a skill that is carefully acquired and refined throughout a career.  If you need further evidence of this, just take a stroll around the IUB campus – you will see a building constructed especially for collaborative work, which is even named the Multidisciplinary Science Building II (or MSB II for short).


The recently constructed Multidisciplinary Science Building II (MSBII) on the IUB campus. Photo by Ren-Jay S.

It’s clear then, that if IU is willing to invest millions of dollars to construct a building especially for multidisciplinary work, that collaboration is indeed a big deal for scholars.  The emphasis that the university places on collaborative work is quite prudent, given that multi-, inter-, and trans-disciplinary research often adds to the quality of the study because of the harmonious integration of theory, technique, and expertise from different fields to produce an innovative new method of studying a particular topic.  Indeed, we frequently see this type of work being published in very highly regarded multidisciplinary journals, providing new insights into well-established areas of study as well as expanding the horizon of human knowledge.

I would therefore advise any new or current graduate student to make an effort at participating in collaborative work – whether that’s research, teaching, or simply learning more about a different field that you might find helpful in conjunction with your major area of study.  The potential benefits to your training, skills, and knowledge are prodigious, particularly because it expands the breadth of your studies.  This usually helps you put things in context for “the big picture” and better relate your research to other disciplines as well as the “real world,” both skills that are highly prized in successful scholars.  So take a little time and expand your own horizons a bit and you just might find yourself on the cutting edge of your discipline as a result of your unique expertise.