Tivoli Student Union at dusk

Interdisciplinary Teams Pitch Strategic Ideas at Second Research Symposium

December 2, 2021

University of Colorado Denver’s researchers returned for the second session of the Strategic Plan Research Symposium on Nov. 19 to pitch a more detailed vision to tackle one of the university’s grand challenges.

Based on feedback from the Oct. 29 session, the groups had time to bulk up their interdisciplinary teams that span multiple schools and colleges and hone their ideas. In this round, 40 faculty members and 14 academic units presented five-minute pitches, followed by five minutes of questions. Each explained the expertise of their team, why their research focus presents a strategic advantage for CU Denver, and a high-level timeline for moving the project toward tangible outcomes. It’s the last step before the teams turn in a Letter of Intent this month, their official proposals in March 2022, and eventual selections in April 2022.

“The intent is to build this enterprise as we go,” said Engineering Dean and Interim Chief Research Officer Martin Dunn. “The intent today is to go from individual and group ideas to seeing how those might coalesce into bigger and broader teams. Collectively, as a community, we will build and strengthen them, and ultimately, the university enterprise going forward.”

Visions for Grand Challenges Come Together

During the three-hour session, it was clear the groups had sharpened their research vision. Xiaojun Ren, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry, and Christopher Phiel, PhD, associate professor of integrative biology, along with other chemists, physicists, computer scientists, and biologists, envision a Center for Epigenetics to engineer better medicine. With no formal epigenetics center in Colorado, the group made the argument that it would be advantageous to be the first and combine CU Denver’s internationally recognized research programs under an epigenetic umbrella that focuses on precision medicine, health disparities, and why genetic diseases affect individuals differently.

Theo Edmonds, Associate Dean for Transdisciplinary Research & Innovation in the College of Arts & Media, presented his group’s plan for an Imaginator Academy with the goal of “Making the Future Work for All.” The futurist leadership institute or think tank would rethink the way we work, as well as the 100-year-old industrial model that has led to declining mental health and new generations of workers to leave companies that don’t innovate and commit to social responsibility.

Twenty researchers from five colleges pitched a Place-Based Collaboration for Health in the Face of Climate Change. The group would tackle the expanding research necessary to confront the climate crises, looking at its myriad effects from several angles: coastal and climate migrants/refugees, economic disruption, extreme weather damage, air quality and extreme heat’s effect on workers and residents, increased infrastructure costs, impact of climate-induced natural disasters on communities, and more.

To hear all of the presentations and learn more about the Strategic Plan Research Symposium and its process, click here.