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Updated 2:46 PM May 18, 2009

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Latest interdisciplinary junior faculty topics

Descriptions based on departmental proposals:

Digital Environments

The digital revolution has transformed interactions of everyday life enabling new practices in research and communication, and forging new communities across great distances. This transformation poses problems of access, accountability, authority and intelligibility. The goals of this cluster hire are to produce the knowledge to address the problems and realize the potential of digital environments, help students and colleagues discriminate authoritative research, generate new forms of interpretation, and cultivate innovative forms of literacy appropriate to the shifting technological foundations.

Environment, Information and Sustainable Development: The Africa-Asia Nexus

Stark tensions between economic development and environmental sustainability dominate debates about the Earth’s future. Will social changes — population growth to violence and epidemics — and unprecedented environmental stresses magnify each other in a deadly cycle? Or can nations develop economies and improve the health of their societies while preserving the quality of natural environments? The Africa-Asia nexus harbors partnerships between traditional governance, transnational capital and national democratic institutions for the management of natural resources, labor and wealth.
Building on the university’s disciplinary strength in history, environment and information, this new approach to studying and improving global connectedness furthers U-M’s growing commitments in Africa and Asia and crafts new approaches to inter-area studies.

Financial Markets

In the midst of the worst financial crisis in at least 50 years, with the turmoil that began in the U.S. having profound and long-lasting repercussions worldwide, academics and policy makers are struggling to understand how we got here, where things are headed, what can be done and lessons for the future. This financial markets cluster will leverage the existing expertise in the four schools to conduct cutting-edge research, inform policy leaders around the world, and design innovative and multi-dimensional courses for undergraduate and graduate students.

Multiscale Cell Mechanics

One of the scientific challenges of the 21st century is to develop a comprehensive quantitative understanding of how cells function at the molecular level and how molecular actions determine cell and tissue behavior. Such knowledge is essential for rational treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, viral infections and metabolic diseases, among others. During the last five decades, the isolation, biochemical and structural characterization of many of the molecules of cells as well as the sequencing of the human genome have provided first insights and fundamental concepts on how cells function. But it is only the beginning of a quantitative understanding of how the molecules in living cells interact to generate the complex patterns, responses, and signaling pathways that characterize living cells.

Petascale Computing

Advances in computational models and algorithms and computer speeds over the past decade now make possible quantitative predictions in fields ranging from astrophysics to drug design. A revolutionary change is coming to computers that will provide speeds thousands of times faster than those available today. While petascale computing will provide unprecedented opportunities for scientific discovery and engineering innovation, the radically different architecture of computer chips will require new programming paradigms and new computing algorithms and methodologies. New curricula is needed to prepare students to harness the power of these new computing technologies.

Sustainable Built Environment

The built environment shapes enormous resource flows (i.e., material, energy, labor and economic investments) and affects the natural environment for decades, if not centuries. If one considers typical design, construction and maintenance practices used today, the relationship between the built environment and the natural environment is not sustainable. New, multidisciplinary approaches must be applied to the design, construction, maintenance and re-use of the built environment to make it more sustainable and dramatically reduce its carbon footprint.

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