Taking an innovative and integrated approach to research is the key to NYU Abu Dhabi’s growth and groundbreaking work. Sehamuddin Galadari, professor of biology, senior vice provost of research, and managing director of the University’s Research Institute, explains how it makes the University unique.
I see NYU Abu Dhabi as a beacon of a new higher education model offering an alternative system for the world.
It's a bold statement by Sehamuddin Galadari, professor of biology senior vice provost of research and managing director of the University’s Research Institute. But no one could accuse him of overstatement.
"First, we operate in the liberal arts education system," he explains. "We value breadth in the educational experience, and believe that the more integrated the curriculum is, the better a person will be as an individual and as a citizen of the world. Secondly, while we have four academic divisions — science, arts and humanities, engineering, and social sciences — everything is integrated and not compartmentalized. I, as a biochemist, for example, can collaborate freely with an engineer, because we’re part of the same research building. Our labs and offices are proximal and this gives rise to interaction amongst faculty from different divisions and disciplines."
Galadari believes this is unique for a higher education institution. The University has more than 80 faculty labs and projects, which are set up in collaborative groups. "I don’t have my lab in isolation," he says. "I’m part of a group of labs, and lab members flow between them, using each other’s equipment, and accessing shared resources, which are made available for everybody, not only our division of science, but also to collaborators from other divisions."
This cross-pollination of ideas is also facilitated through 12 state-of-the-art Core Technology Platforms (CTPs), equipped for deep science research such as brain imaging, nuclear magnetic resonance, and spectroscopy, and analytical and materials characterization, among others. Centrally funded and managed, the technicians running the CTPs often hold PhDs of their own, and for 20 percent of their time conduct their own research. It’s advantageous, says Galadari because "they won’t only run a sample for me, they’ll engage and advise on how I could do an experiment differently. This bidirectional interaction means we actually discuss and work with our science." Of course it’s not just about science for Galadari. As managing director of the Research Institute, he’s responsible for ensuring the multidisciplinary centers are in line with NYU Abu Dhabi’s vision to be one of the world’s great research universities addressing complex challenges of global significance.
These challenges have been grouped into themes to be explored: bio-innovation and health, cities, culture and heritage, environmental sustainability, governance and peace. The research centers exist as interdisciplinary hubs tackling different perspectives on these themes, from library of Arabic literature, cyber security, to interacting urban networks and global sea level change. "These centers are multi-principal investigators and multidisciplinary, addressing fundamental questions of a global nature," he says. "And we are having a local impact too." The Public Health Research Center, for example, is doing groundbreaking work on better understanding diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk factors in Arab populations, a group very under represented in public health and genetics research up to this point.
Far from being an academic outlier, NYU Abu Dhabi’s connection with NYU New York, as part of our Global University, brings connection and collaboration with partners within our NYU network and also all over the world.
"We have collaborators at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Toronto, Shanghai and so it goes on."
He continues: "To have access to these collaborative labs, to be acknowledged globally, and to have the connection with people presenting at conferences and visiting us here in Abu Dhabi — these opportunities really enhance this environment to facilitate innovation, creativity, and scientific discovery. As a researcher, NYU Abu Dhabi is a beautiful place to be. Both for us and for our students, who will become our future colleagues."
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