I am sort of stuck in a quagmire. I am just starting out in a 2 yr bio-manufacturing program, which has a thesis component. I was looking to add a minor from an interdisciplinary department biotechnology, which requires a few classes and a person from this area must serve on my thesis committee. My problem arises from the fact that I want my thesis topic to leverage skills from both groups. As of now the projects offered to me are not really all that exciting and would not be as multifaceted as I would like.

I know part of the problem is that I am a masters student, so that limits the scope of what I can do which is a turn off for some. In my initial outreach to professors for the minor component, a common response was I do not have anything for MS students.

The other issue is that since both areas are interdisciplinary, each area is made up of individuals from a number of departments (engineering, microbiology, biology, plant science, animal science, genetics). The dual appointment makes things a challenge. I wanted to ask out there if anyone else needed to do more leg work to form a committee and secure a project.

What are some pitfall I could avoid? What is the best way to engage professor who have no real vested interest? Is it possible to generate a fusion project leverages skills from both programs?

1 Answer 1


I sometimes have the stinking suspicion that "interdisciplinary" is a codeword for "disorganized, incoherent, or train wreck". What you're encountering is precisely the problem man such programs face, there's no central management of what you are working towards or way to corral the cats into working with you.

My suggestion is to save the interdisciplinary until you've mastered one discipline. Otherwise, expect more of the same -- having to convince everyone to be on board and losing focus on a current research topic.

Right now, you're an MS student -- focus on finishing that degree first. If you want to develop research skills outside of that, then take the courses without adding a "minor" to your MS. If after you finish, you want to pursue a PhD that bridges some of the knowledge fields you are working in, make sure that the place you go has a coherent program for bridging them rather than a dream that they can be bridged.

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