Interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinarity: What it all means and how the frontiers of knowledge are changing

Michael Summers, Harold Geller, Rebecca Ericson, Jim Trefil

Session Information

Year: 2017 | Time: 10:30am-11:10am | Location: PANEL & ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: Johnson Center (Room D)



Learn to prepare students for interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary work. This panel will explore and discuss the nature of crossdisciplinary work students may experience in their academic and professional careers, and introduce how experienced teachers of interdisciplinary courses engage their students in multi-faceted research here at Mason.


FULL ABSTRACT: Most big problems facing humanity (give examples to the audience: Climate Change, understanding the Brain and Consciousness, Computational Social Science, and the future challenges as humanity moves into space) are multifaceted, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary (define these for audience). Also, as in any field of scholarship that involves basic research, the key developments that move a field forward typically come from unexpected directions (e.g. the internet, materials science, etc.). Furthermore, research in these highly interdisciplinary realms typically involves working in large teams of highly varied experts. How do you teach and train students to be aware of the large context in which they will be working in the future and at the same time give the students sufficient depth of understanding in a specific field so that they can make significant contributions to such projects? 

This session will be a short presentation (15 mins) providing definitions and an overview of the nature of interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary work, followed by a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges of training students in interdisciplinary fields of research. The panel will include people who have substantial experience in teaching interdisciplinary courses and engaging in such multi-faceted research at Mason.

Panelists include: Michael Summers (Astrobiology ASTR 301: Teaching the most interdisciplinary of all of the sciences: The origin, evolution, and future of life in the universe)

For more information about teaching in the disciplines:

For session spacific materials, please request directly from the presenter Mike Summers:


collaborative learning; team-based learning; student engagement; critical thinking; global learning; multidisciplinary learning; interdisciplinary learning; transdisciplinary learning


  • There are currently no refbacks.