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Successful Multidisciplinary Teams: Current ORUs Share Their Perspectives

ORE recently touched base with three Organized Research Units at different stages in their funding. Read about their experiences and what they felt led to their success.

ORU Year One Success: Initiative for PON/POC Nano-bio-sensing (IPN)

Jayne Wu and IPN colleagues After only six months as an Organized Research Unit, Jayne Wu, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and her colleagues have already published eight papers, received $240,000 in external funding, and have big plans in the works for their patented technology.

Wu attributes their early successes to having a clear objective, ample preparation, and to choosing the team members carefully. The team started collaborating and discussing possible research directions and projects, well before the ORU application. The plan for experiments was already in place. Once they received the ORU funding, they could start the experiments and get preliminary data right away.

Managing the funding was also important.  To maximize the use of ORU funding, the team agreed to associate the expenditure with achieving project milestones. Information on the project priorities and expenditures is shared with everyone, ensuring that they have a common agenda and everyone’s effort is aligned.

ORU Year Two Success: Initiative for Understanding the Microscopic Physics of Electron-Lattice Coupling

Steve Johnston, Maik Lang, Joshua Sangoro, and Haidong Zhou The ORU led by Steve Johnston, Maik Lang, Joshua Sangoro, and Haidong Zhou brought together four assistant professors from the departments of Physics and Astronomy (Johnston and Zhou), Nuclear Engineering (Lang), and Biochemical Engineering (Sangoro) with a range of expertise spanning materials synthesis, characterization, and advanced modeling.

The ORU program has not only facilitated our preliminary studies combining theory and experiment, but it has also provided us with an excellent environment to develop a research program beyond our individual capabilities. A critical component contributing to their success stems from the local nature of our collaboration: each member has ample opportunities to participate in combined group meetings, joint paper writing, co-supervision of junior personnel, and planning meetings. Right now, the team is gearing up for a joint NSF proposal.

ORU Year Three Success: Initiative for Sustainable Mobility

David Greene and Asad Khattack (and Jun Liu)After 3 years of ORU funding, David Greene and Asad Khattack have secured more than $1M in external funding while working with a diverse group of more than 10 researchers and mentoring more than 20 students.

They attribute their success to:

  1. Appeal of the topic. The topic of sustainable mobility strategies is widely recognized by the research community and research sponsors as crucial to global sustainability.
  2. Transformative and synergistic engineering and policy research and training students with both technical and policy/planning skills.
  3. Creating a new brand that involves multiple disciplines and enhances collaborations between UT, ORNL, and other national laboratories.

Apply for FY18 ORU Funding here.