Following the knowledge: Graduate students cross college lines for advanced coursework and development
There are many opportunities across UD for graduate students to
take advantage of professional development programs in colleges
and departments outside their core academic discipline, providing
benefits for all involved.
Research integrity class trains grad students to become peer 'ethics educators'
Faculty and students from last year's Research Ethics class. [Photo by Kathy Atkinson]
Representing diverse fields, including geography, psychology,
business, education, wildlife ecology, political science, physics and
engineering, the students complete the seminar-style class on
research ethics, receiving a stipend and committing to lead research
ethics activities as peer educators.
"The math is pretty simple," said philosophy professor Tom Powers,
one of three professors leading the seminar-style course. "We are
leveraging the training these students receive to reach many more
across the University."
UD's program began as a National Science Foundation-funded pilot
project in 2007. Since then, applications to join the class have
increased to such an extent that Powers and his co-instructors,
philosophy professor Mark Greene and oceanography professor Bill
Ullman, have doubled the number of students in the class and are
contemplating adding additional sections in the future.
Throughout the semester, the students ponder issues such as the
falsification of results, conflicts of interest in industry-funded
research, whistle-blower vulnerability, plagiarism and more.
Real-life examples keep the discussion lively, said Powers, who
also directs the Science, Ethics and Public Policy program at UD.
"Having students from so many different disciplines can make the
conversation in class more difficult," added Powers, "but it can also
make it richer as we discuss how different
"The participation of students from diverse disciplines has actually
enriched our concept of science," said Sudarshan Dutta, a postdoc
in plant and soil sciences. "We can get out of our own discipline
and get a sense of the overall community of science and what every
'citizen' of the 'republic of science' needs to know."
Economic analysis class provides advanced research tools
Last semester, graduate students from five UD colleges enrolled
in Professor William Latham's Applied Econometrics (ECON
803), an advanced course in applying statistical techniques to
analyze economic data.
One such student is Robin Dutta, a graduate student in the
School of Public Policy and Administration whose research
focus is in energy and environmental policy. "I took ECON 803
to learn more about economic modeling to better understand
economic predictions," said Dutta. "Specifically, I am looking at
the economics of sustainable energy, and I would like to apply
what I learn to politics and the policy arena."
"Teaching students with diverse backgrounds presents both
challenges and advantages," commented Professor Latham.
"Sometimes, dealing with a challenge can produce an unexpected
advantage. For example, when I need to discuss concepts that
should already be familiar to economics students I try to find
ways of doing so that communicate well to non-economics
students. But the economics students hear these explanations
and learn new ways of thinking about economic concepts."
Latham further capitalizes on the students' diversity of
backgrounds through classroom discussion. "I use a lot of current
events to illustrate the analytical techniques and invite students
to contribute to these discussions. So finance students contribute
more to discussions about the values of companies while
agriculture students understand commodity markets and
energy and environmental policy students understand global
Added Dutta, "In my research, I have constantly
wanted to get the economist's perspective.
My research would not be as well
developed without the input from
Dr. Latham. His economic and
business expertise has been
invaluable to me, and I can
apply that knowledge in my
Business class broadens science students' education
UD biotechnology graduate student
Chris Ahmer said the opportunity to take
business classes to supplement his core
science coursework is what attracted him to
the P.S.M. degree. "I knew that a traditional
M.S. in a biology field would mean a career
pretty exclusively within the realm of
research, and I wanted to have more doors
open for me within the science industry."
P.S.M.s at UD were developed with input
from leading industry representatives to
prepare students to go directly from the
classroom to positions in business,
industry, government or nonprofit
employment. For that reason, the plus
courses are intended to provide practical
knowledge in business, leadership,
entrepreneurship, project management,
public administration and more.
Along with other P.S.M. graduate students,
Ahmer completed BUAD 500 last fall.
Taught by Allen Fisher, instructor in
business administration, the course covers
key business principles like organization
and management, market research and
marketing, operations management and
decision analysis, accounting and financial
analysis. The course also stresses business
technical writing and presentation skills.
Commented Ahmer, "This class was one of
my favorites, with a really flexible, open
learning environment. We discussed business
topics relating to the U.S. and around the
world that were relevant not only to what we
were learning, but how these facts related to
us as students and future members of the
American work force."