Blurring Boundaries

This article first appeared in the Hindu on February 13, 2021.

Here are 10 interesting and exciting interdisciplinary courses from across the world.

Interdisciplinary is the thing. This pandemic has led to the almost-demise of the already tenuous boundaries between regions and between job roles and careers.

This is the age of the expert who can see more than one thing at a time and can find solutions to multi-dimensional problems. So, here are 10 of the most exciting interdisciplinary courses from across the world:

Cognitive Science and Computation, University of Michigan, the U.S.

Cognitive Science studies how the human mind learns and takes decisions, combining ideas from psychology, biology, linguistics, and philosophy. Combine this with Computer Science, and it opens areas such as human-robot interaction, natural language processing and brain mapping technologies. It opens interesting possibilities like how to teach a robot to swim or a self-driving car to swerve to avoid a fatal accident. Or how to enable a cerebral palsy patient to take a standardised test for college admissions.

Technology and Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the U.S.

With technology outpacing the bravest futurists, bleak dystopian scenarios fill our minds, our movies and, sometimes, even our realities. This Master’s degree at the intersection of policy and technology focuses on intelligent and responsible strategies to bring the best of technology to benefit societies. Other interdisciplinary majors from MIT include Humanities and Science and Humanities and Engineering.

Computer Science and Entrepreneurial Leadership, Ashoka University, India

Almost all disruption is led by technology today, even in fields that we traditionally associate with the arts and humanities such as fashion. Ashoka’s degree equips students to identify and lead disruptive and innovative businesses in this brave, new world.

Robotics & Cyber-Physical Systems, Plaksha University, India

Situated at the intersection of computing, mechatronics and human behaviour, it prepares engineering students to design systems that interact safely and productively with humans. Not only does it equip students for cutting-edge robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) careers, but also aids them in addressing challenges posed by AI and create solutions to issues such as environmental degradation, polarisation and economic inequalities.

Physics and Philosophy, Oxford University, the U.K.

This startlingly odd combination combines two disciplines that address the same questions across the sciences and the arts: what is the nature of reality? How do we define and establish truth? Ancient thinkers saw the two disciplines as one, but even modern Physics has contributed to and benefited from philosophical perspectives.

Mathematics and Psychology, Durham University, the U.K.

This one speaks to those who love working with people as well as logic. Maths combines with psychology to uncover patterns in behaviour and design diagnostic tools to help us understand and predict our own behaviours.

Law and Business, Trinity College-Dublin, Ireland

With e-commerce and blockchain circumventing known laws and institutions, this increasingly popular combination equips business leaders, policy makers, legal advisers and entrepreneurs to create systems and structures to handle the changing way of doing business today. It also prepares lawyers to grapple with legal challenges in a rapidly changing world with post-pandemic mergers, acquisitions, insolvencies and restructuring.

Business, Communication and New Media, National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

Media may not be the first industry that comes to mind when we think of “essential services”, but it has been a lifeline through this pandemic by providing free and independent news, low-cost and at-home entertainment. This degree combines media with business for students to understand and leverage this powerful tool that impacts politics, society and business equally.

Biotechnology and Business, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Hong Kong

With 3D printing of organs and bionic limbs are fast becoming services one can pay for, this degree equips students to understand, manage and lead business processes in this high-investment, high-impact field where product development can take over a decade, and where success and failure can potentially destroy the world.

Design Computing, University of Sydney, Australia

Combining subjects as diverse as Graphics and Multimedia with Design for Social Impact, Web Design with Architectural Photography and 3D Modelling with Data Science, this course encompasses all aspects of Design Thinking for those with wide-ranging creativity and big ideas.

6 thoughts on “Blurring Boundaries

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