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Experiment in Networking Yields New Links on Campus

December 11, 2014

Research Breakfasts Serve Up Ideas & Collaborations

In early fall 2014, UMD's Graduate Office initiated a new forum for interaction between researchers of all types. Faculty, students, teaching assistants, undergraduates, graduates, post-docs, and other researchers from every college and program were invited to a series of informal gatherings. Held in the mornings on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in UMD's Center Court Restaurant, an ever-changing group of people sat down for coffee, tea, and often heady conversation. 

Gathering of Faculty and Students
Each week a different set of students and faculty attend the meetings to discuss research.
A group of students and faculty discuss research
The goal of the sessions is to increase collaborative activities and foster interdisciplinary dialogue.
Gathering of students and faculty  
The gatherings are sponsored by the UMD Graduate Office and the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

As was predicted by Erik Brown, interim director of Graduate Education, the person who initiated the program, the topics vary widely. One morning in November, the conversation flew from predictions about the volume of water in Miller Creek in the coming decade (Tiffany Sprague), to mapping the human genome (Karen Marsh and Tim Craig), to math graph modeling (Danielle Stewart).

It wasn't only personal work that came up in the conversation. Free flowing conversation brought up the collaboration between Matt Andrews (biology) and Marshall Hampton (math), lighting surveys and 3-D modeling, Jared Strasburg's work on genetics, Christian Schardt 's work in geology, social media in marketing. Habitat for Humanity, and Ryan Hueffmeier's sustainability projects.

Brown is passionate about breaking down barriers to collaboration, "We are looking for more ways to take advantage of the broad intellectual community we have at UMD to foster innovative approaches in teaching, research, and scholarship." He gives advice to people who are joining the sessions for the first time, "Sit with people you don’t know; talk about where you’ve been and where you want to be; and think about the future of our campus." In order for everyone to feel most comfortable, Brown set up separate sessions for faculty, faculty and students, and students.

Creating a culture where collaborations can flourish is the purpose behind the meetings. As the world becomes more complex, it is clear interdisciplinary collaborations matter in both the sciences and humanities. By working together, researchers can approach problems that no one discipline can handle alone, from environmental sustainability and the nature of humanity, to international relations and the physical world. 

The fall 2014 research breakfasts were a success and the program will be continued in spring 2015, although the format may change slightly. For info, contact

Written by Cheryl Reitan. December, 2014. 

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