Cross-disciplinarity: Benefits and Opportunities


Frey, Jeremy G., Bird, Colin, Todd, Stephen, Attard, George, Goodson, Kelvin, Burt, Roger and Beynon, Megan (2005) Cross-disciplinarity: Benefits and Opportunities. In, IBM & School of Chemistry Talks Series 4, Southampton, UK, Southampton, UK, Southampton University.

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Description/Abstract

Beginning in 2001, IBM and the School of Chemistry have organised an annual set of lectures, intended to make Information Technology interesting to undergraduates and postgraduates who are not computer scientists. The School of Chemistry hosts the lectures, so the audience comprises mainly physical scientists. IBM is keen to recruit from a broad population and the Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics wants its graduates to consider a broad range of careers, so we have mutual benefit.

Each year, we have arranged the lectures around a theme, although each time we have interpreted it fairly loosely. For 2004, the theme was the interplay between science and computer science, with talks about Computer Games, Wimbledon, Disk Drive Physics, and Preserving Data. You can see what we mean about loose interpretation!
We adopted a new format in 2004, with four talks in a single afternoon symposium. The format worked very well, so we used the same format in 2005, except that we ran two symposia, each with its own sub-theme.

The 2005 SYMPOSIA
The overall theme for 2005 was Cross-disciplinarity: Benefits and Opportunities, with the sub-themes for the two symposia being:
o Biology Inspires Computing (February 23rd)
o Lateral Thinking and Intellectual Property (May 4th)
Translating the theme into an objective, our aim was to explore the importance of creativity and lateral thinking, especially the application of concepts from one discipline to knotty problems in another area. This aim is well illustrated by the titles of the individual lectures. The lectures can be found from the links below

Symposium 1 – “Biology Inspires Computing”, Wed 23 Feb 2005
Stephen Todd – Evolution of projects: Biologically inspired computing and art
Prof George Attard – Computing inspires Biology
Kelvin Goodson – Clinical Appeal: Tailoring Computer Tools to the Real User

Stephen illustrated how ideas derived from evolutionary processes could nourish the evolution of projects between biology, computing and art. In particular, Stephen showed how the biologically inspired, art-driven Mutator interface enabled artist William Latham to evolve forms for creative purposes. Mutator can also be used in more traditional computer application areas such as business planning.

George Attard neatly – and laterally – turned the theme around, with an entertaining excursion into the areas in which computing might inspire biology.

Kelvin described the importance of understanding the needs and aspirations of the alternative area in which you are collaborating. His talk focussed on research and development into medical imaging tools for radiotherapy planning, while emphasising the relevance of appreciating exactly who would be using the tools and how they would be used.

Symposium 2 – “Lateral Thinking and Intellectual Property”, Wed 4 May 2005
Roger Burt – If necessity is the mother of invention, who is its father?
Colin Bird – How well beaten is the innovation track?
Megan Beynon – From T. S. Eliot to Invention in I.T.

Roger began by talking about his own experience as a Chemist, and used that to trace through the patent process, illustrating how it can both foster and constrain innovation. Roger concluded by examining innovation from the perspective of invention.

Colin’s talk was a light-hearted interlude, looking at what it can mean to be an innovator, but ending with the positive message that it's well worth the effort.

Megan does not have a science background and has been with IBM for only a few years, yet her talk ably illustrated why she has been particularly successful in developing her ideas to become the subjects of several patent applications. Megan talked about her experiences of establishing herself as an inventor, illustrating her story by describing the very successful Peridot project, which ran as part of the 2004 IBM Extreme Blue programme.

The lecture presentations are available on this site as PDF versions of the PowerPoint slides, with the exception of “How well beaten is the innovation track?” Colin Bird has converted this to article form and can be obtained by following the links from the lecture titles above.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Keywords: interdisciplinarity, lateral thinking, invention, innovation, computing, science
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Divisions: University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Electronics and Computer Science
University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Chemistry
ePrint ID: 29088
Date Deposited: 16 May 2006
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:17
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/29088

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