Transdisciplinary Research Up Close
“We don’t expect the human mind to give up its secrets to only psychologists, or only linguists, or only computer scientists or only people who work on human development. The mind is just too complex.” -- Gary Libben, psycholinguist and Vice-President Research, Brock University
To get a concrete idea of what transdisciplinary research is, let’s look at our Advanced Biomanufacturing Centre (ABC) as an example.
The Advanced Biomanufacturing Centre (ABC)’s mandate is to commercialize research based on the melding of chemistry and biology. ABC also creates new materials for products or modifies materials currently made up of components that are harmful to the environment or are becoming scarce.
At the core of these medicines and materials are chemical “building blocks.” Our biologists and chemists work together to manufacture these building blocks.
The discipline “biology” provides methods for “programing” plants and other living organisms so that they can produce specific chemical substances. The discipline “chemistry” transforms building blocks into more complex products.
One of ABC’s projects aims to make silicones in new ways and generate silicone-based materials.
Biologists have studied the properties and functions of naturally occurring enzymes in the human body, such as breaking down food for digestion. Working with biologists, organic chemist Paul Zelisko and his team discovered how to program enzymes so that they could synthesize elastomers in place of the more traditional metal-based catalysts.
This could potentially replace metals – which can be harmful to the environment, are limited in supply and potentially expensive – as the substance to form silicone elastomers.
Similar collaborations exist in our other four trans-disciplinary hubs and throughout Brock University's institutes, centres and faculties.