In response to these conclusions and to the insights gained from its study, the committee makes the following recommendations:

Undergraduate Education. The best way to attract scientists to interdisciplinary work is to get them interested as undergraduates. It is recommended that universities encourage undergraduate interdisciplinary research courses, seminars, and summer programs. For example, mathematical sciences departments could institute seminars for undergraduates in which chemists (and other scientists) would be invited to discuss chemistry research areas that might benefit from interaction with mathematics. The committee recommends that chemistry departments establish seminars for undergraduates in which mathematical scientists would be invited to discuss modern mathematics. Graduate students (and interested faculty) would of course be welcome to attend these seminars.

In the experience of the committee members, one very successful vehicle for getting mathematics and chemistry undergraduates interested in research is the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). In addition to fostering interdisciplinary undergraduate activity at research universities, there is a real educational opportunity here for four-year liberal arts institutions that traditionally encourage undergraduates to write senior honors theses and to otherwise construct, expand, and explore their own undergraduate education.

Graduate Education. Departments in the mathematical and chemical sciences should encourage graduate degrees (both M.S. and Ph.D.) that involve dual (mathematics and chemistry) mentoring. Dual mentoring activity between chemistry and physics and chemistry and biology has been successful in many universities. The committee recommends that mathematics graduate students consider a minor in chemistry instead of a minor in an area of mathematics related to their research specialty. Theoretical and computational chemistry graduate students should consider a minor in mathematics or, alternatively, take a core of mathematical courses appropriate to their interest (perhaps in the framework of a special "interdisciplinary track"). One way to encourage cross-disciplinary graduate education is to allow graduate students in one area to enroll in upper-level undergraduate courses in another area for graduate credit.

Faculty Interaction. Mathematics and chemistry departments should on occasion invite a person from the other area to speak in a research seminar or a colloquium. Lists of speakers of potential interest to industry should be circulated to local industrial laboratories, and vice versa.

Interdisciplinary Research. The committee recommends that mathematics and chemistry departments encourage and value individual and collaborative research that is at the interface of the two disciplines. Such work has the potential for significant intellectual impact on computational chemistry, and hence on the future evolution of chemical research and its applications to problems of importance in our society.

Professional Societies. The American Mathematical Society (AMS) issued a policy statement in 1994 that supports interdisciplinary research. The second goal of that statement is to "connect the power of mathematics and mathematical thinking to problems in science, technology, and society." This policy statement is reinforced by specific recommendations to "enlarge the scope and extent of interdisciplinary research connecting mathematics with other fields" and to "emphasize the value of such connections during the mathematical training of both undergraduate and graduate students" (American Mathematical Society, undated).

Professional meetings in mathematics and chemistry—for instance, those of the AMS, American

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement