Speed dating for research

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That’s a total of 39, ranging from Maine Medical Center in Portland to the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Association to the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Sackler Center for Medical Education, Room 114, 145 Harrison Ave., Boston.

Established in 2008, Tufts CTSI is one of a network of centers funded by the National Institutes of Health in an effort to promote not only a wide range of cross-disciplinary research, but also community-engaged research, that is, research done in concert with leaders in industry and government as well as with community programs and religious, ethnic and other interested groups.

Researchers with potential project ideas will be stationed around the room, while those with particular interests or areas of expertise will walk around in search of a match.

To make this work, those interested in attending should pre-register for the event.

For all of their big ideas, sometimes faculty are a bit like wallflowers at a high school dance; they need a little push to make the first move.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that the University of Southern California is using “speed dating” techniques to encourage professors to work together across disciplines.

After these brief sessions, organizers hope a special chemistry will develop between some of the participants, prompting the beginnings of a new research relationship.

Steven Goodman, who has helped organize the event, sounds a bit like the host of The Bachelor when he discusses the concept.

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After lunch and an informal chance to mingle, the speed dating will commence.

The collaboration retreat is designed to be a “bottom-up” approach to fostering interdisciplinary research, Goodman said.

Oftentimes, cross-discipline research is more or less mandated by administrators, as opposed to being born organically among faculty, he says.

A professor in the university’s dental school, Goodman says he’s cautiously optimistic that some sparks will fly.

“I think we all know that people will walk in with some crazy ideas; there will be those half snicker smiles,” says Goodman, co-chair of the university’s subcommittee on [research] collaboration.

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