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More interdisciplinary junior faculty proposals OK'd

Navigating the ever-changing digital landscape. Taking knowledge of the human genome and cell mechanics to the next level to improve disease treatment. Understanding how the structures we build affect the natural environment.

These are three of six interdisciplinary teaching and research areas that will be the focus of a second round of junior faculty hiring. This year 24 positions are called for in the proposals that were chosen from 28 proposals (requesting 123 positions), submitted to the Office of the Provost.

"From cells to skyscrapers, our faculty are engaged in path-breaking work. The proposals submitted to the interdisciplinary initiative this year reflected the innovative ideas and imaginative approaches to complex problems that characterize work across the campus," says Provost Teresa Sullivan.

President Mary Sue Coleman announced in 2007 a five-year, $30 million initiative to hire 100 tenure-track junior faculty members to increase the university's focus on teaching and research across disciplines.

The goal is to recruit scholars whose work crosses boundaries or for cluster hires that bring experts from different fields together to explore significant questions or address complex problems.

"We continue to receive impressive proposals that are creative in their intellectual approach to solving problems. These newest faculty positions will provide students with increased opportunities to learn the value of approaching dilemmas from multiple perspectives," Coleman says.

Last year, 25 junior faculty members were hired for projects ranging from data mining to microbial ecology and energy storage to HIV/AIDS. The latest round of topics are: Digital Environments; Environment, Information, and Sustainable Development: The Asia-Africa Nexus; Financial Markets; Multiscale Cell Mechanics; Petascale Computing; and Sustainable Built Environments.

The proposals include departments within LSA, the School of Information, School of Natural Resources and Environment, College of Engineering, the Medical School, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the Law School, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and the Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning.

Announcing the new hires, Sullivan reiterated that while the university faces fiscal challenges in the current economy and is looking at ways to trim the budget in the face of continued declining state support, protecting the university's academic mission remains the top priority.

"Investing in faculty is critical to maintaining our position as a leading university," Sullivan says. "Recruiting promising junior faculty strengthens our research and teaching capacity and helps us to retain outstanding senior scholars as well."

All schools and colleges on the Ann Arbor campus are eligible to submit proposals.

An Interdisciplinary Junior Faculty Initiative Faculty Review Committee evaluates proposals based on rationale, intellectual strength, contributions to undergraduate and graduate education, mentoring plan, promotion and tenure plan, and contribution to advancing institutional priorities.

The committee recommends proposals for funding. Sullivan and Coleman make final decisions.

Latest interdisciplinary junior faculty topics
Descriptions based on departmental proposals

Digital Environments
School of Information and LSA
Four positions

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
School of Information, LSA and School of Natural Resources and Environment
Four positions

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
Ross School of Business, Law School, LSA and the Ford School of Public Policy
Four position

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
College of Engineering and the Medical School
Five positions

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
College of Engineering and LSA
Four positions

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
Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, CoE and SNRE
Three positions

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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