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02.05.18 - Multidisciplinary Program Requires Teamwork

Hai Pham, a biomedical engineering student, expresses her
enthusiam for working with her MDP team.

As winter quarter at UC Irvine gets underway, 80 undergraduates from diverse majors are embarking on a cross-disciplinary experience that has the potential to benefit them long after the school year ends. They have been selected as Fellows in the Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP), sponsored by CALIT2 and UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, where they will work across disciplines with teammates to create and design unique projects.

The two-quarter program kicked off with an orientation session last Friday in the CALIT2 auditorium. Students became acquainted, learned more about the program’s operations and expectations, and shared their project goals and roles within the team.

Now in its eighth year, MDP offers a variety of novel design projects in the areas of energy, environment, healthcare and culture. Selected students chose from a list of 15 projects, and then were paired with other students from multiple disciplines in three- to twelve-member teams. Each team is guided by two to four faculty mentors and graduate student project leads, also from different disciplines.

Each selected team, along with its faculty mentors, provides an itemized budget, with CALIT2 providing two thirds of the funded amount for each project. Each team is required to develop a solid design of its proposed project to present at the UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium in May, as well as at additional demonstration events sponsored by CALIT2. 

For Professor G.P. Li, director of the institute’s Irvine division, the importance of cross-disciplinary participation at the undergraduate level cannot be overstated. “Today more than ever, cross-disciplinary collaboration is a key success factor in research and in the workplace,” he said. “The practical experience and critical-thinking skills gained from engaging in these multidisciplinary collaborations allow students to think more broadly about solving problems and creates more well-rounded employees and researchers.”

As in years past, this year’s projects span a wide spectrum. They include the design of: hardware/software for miniscope imaging of the brain; an interactive device for interpreting musical performance gestures and expressions; sensor technology to understand water quality and estuarine-ocean exchange in Newport Bay; and spine-rad brachytherapy bone cement.

A complete list of projects and mentors can be found at the program website:

--Shelly Nazarenus