This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Faculty partnering across campus win first Transdisciplinary Seed Grants

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Can the self-esteem of children struggling with congenital facial deformities be enhanced by teaching them to create art using photography and video? Seeking to answer this question are internationally renowned photographer Catherine Opie of the Department of Art, plastic surgeon Dr. Reza Jarrahy of the Geffen School of Medicine and Robert Bilder of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, whose research proposal is one of 11 chosen from 47 proposals to receive Transdisciplinary Seed Grants of up to $25,000.
 
Medieval history and DNA biology meet in a study tracing migration patterns in Europe.
Established last spring by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research Cabinet and the Academic Senate Council on Research, the grants are intended to further new interdisciplinary research and scholarship. To be awarded twice a year, the grants support research proposals in which the principal investigators are faculty members in "north campus" units who are working with co-investigators in distinctly different disciplines from across the campus. This approach is intended to open the door to new areas of inquiry that otherwise would not have been explored within the confines of a single discipline.
 
Also launched last spring was a unique tool to help researchers connect with potential collaborators campuswide. The Transdisciplinary Seed Grant Forum enables faculty to post descriptions of their research interests, join discussion forums or engage in private conversations, and collaborate online in creating research proposals.
 
In a letter announcing the grants to campus leaders, Vice Chancellor for Research James S. Economou and Timothy F. Lane, chair of the Senate’s Council on Research, wrote: "It is the hope that these seed grants and (future) proposals … will continue to stimulate UCLA faculty to seek collaborations beyond their own disciplines, and that these collaborations will result in deep, lasting, and positive contributions to society at large."
 
They also announced proposals, due Nov. 11, for the next round of awards. Proposal specifications are available here.
 
Other collaborators whose projects will be funded include historian Patrick Geary and biologist Robert Wayne, who will use DNA samples from cemeteries in Europe to trace early medieval migration patterns — research that they hope will answer puzzling questions about Barbarian migrations into the Roman World. Four faculty members — Todd Presner of Germanic languages, Francis Steen of communications studies, Song-Chun Zhu of computer science and University Librarian Gary Strong — will explore the role of social media in news-making events such as the revolutions in Egypt and Libya.
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