Of course when you enter into graduate school, you join a single department, under the umbrella of a specific discipline. And it makes complete sense to be trained in the methods and mindset of your discipline; BUT DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF!! In my second year in a sociology PhD program, I have increasingly understood the benefit of interdisciplinary work. For example, in my first year, I worked on a large project about hospital acquired infections. The primary investigator (PI) was a sociologist, but his co-PI was a medical doctor (MD). The training of the MD was vital for the up front knowledge about the topic, while the sociologist provided an advanced knowledge of statistics, and rigorous survey methodology. And in the process, a team of sociology grad students were exposed to information in a very different way from how we are tough to think about medicine. Without this collaboration the project may have never happened. In addition, this interdisciplinary research provided a richness of the day-to-day operations of hospitals, that might have been missed if the project was simply sociological or medical in nature.
In another example, some of the students and a faculty member in my department have begun collaborating with faculty in the Informatics department. Their sociological imagination coupled with the new technologies available for searching through data, may lead to cutting edge research, with unimaginable impacts.
These are just two examples of many at IU where grad students and faculty are reaching across disciplines to enrich the work that they do. So when you get to grad school, please don’t forget to pursue collaborators outside of your discipline. Increasingly, graduating PhDs are being hired outside of their discipline. So remember, interdisciplinary work is not just about doing innovative research; these connections outside of your discipline may also be the same people who help you to get a job when you graduate.