Collegium Helveticum
In conversation

Where Disciplines Meet and Learn From Each Other
Lydia Bourouiba

Lydia is an associate professor and director of the Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory at MIT and a senior fellow at the Collegium from 2021–2022. Her scientific research focuses on problems at the interface of basic fluid dynamics and health, with a particular emphasis on fundamental physical mechanisms in the transport of microorganisms and pathogens, and their adaptation and evolution. For her, the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that we can only address societal and health challenges of great magnitude with a combination of sound disciplinary knowledge and true transdisciplinary collaboration.

For her research projects to be successful, Lydia relies on knowledge and contributions of various disciplines. For that reason, she was excited about the possibility of applying for a fellowship at the Collegium as an academic guest at ETH. “Fostering this balance of depth and synergistic exchange between disciplines is a critical task for the universities.” Although research funding increasingly encourages interdisciplinary approaches, such integration remains inadequate, in part because true integration is a major challenge in an education and science that has historically been separated into disciplines. Lydia is convinced that a more promising attempt is to build truly interdisciplinary centers that focus on problem solving with depth in each discipline, but in which researchers from different fields work side by side to share research questions from their respective disciplines. “The Collegium is such a place where disciplines meet and learn from each other.” And what is most important for Lydia: a place that creates the basis for long-term exchange and collaborations.