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Better Place for Research
Penn has the capacity to lead the world.
By Judith Rodin
entire Penn community was thrilled to see one of our own share
the 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering and developing conductive
one who has known Dr. Alan MacDiarmid, or who knew about the revolutionary
breakthrough he and his fellow Nobel recipients made at Penn during
the 1970s, should have been the least bit surprised by the news. He is
a great scholar, a great teacher and a great man in the mold of our founder,
Benjamin Franklin, who also knew a thing or two about electricity.
the tumult of news conferences and receptions that followed, MacDiarmid
electrified audiences by describing how Penns unique environment nourished
his teaching and research. He said: You can be the most brilliant scientist
in all the world; put you on a desert island with the very best scientific
equipment and the very best library and youll do uninteresting research.
You must have interaction. You must have discussion. What place could
be better than Penn?
it comes to fostering the kinds of interactions and discussions that lead
to breakthroughs that literally change the world for the better, I would
have to agree: There is no better place than Penn.
now, Penn researchers in revolutionary new fields like genomics and nanotechnology
are making strides and discoveries that will, in time, dramatically expand
our understanding of human nature and promote healthierand happierlives
for more and more people.
succeed, these new enterprises demand an unprecedented degree of collaboration
across a wide range of disciplines. While other elite universities jockey
for the inside track, Penn enjoys a rare advantage that is already leading
us to the winners circle: Interdisciplinary study and research are woven
ineluctably into Penns genetic material. You see it in our intellectual
muscle, in our infrastructure and in our culture.
the advances Penn is seeking in genomics following the dramatic completion
of the human-genome project. Researchers now have a powerful, comprehensive
biological data base with which to study the involvement of specific genes
in growth, health, behavior and diseaseand Penn scientists hope to make
the most of it.
diagnostic and life-saving potential is enormous. At the Abramson Family
Cancer Research Institute at Penn, Dr. Barbara Weber is leading an international
effort to move beyond early detection of breast cancer to early identification
of women who genetically run a higher risk of developing the disease.
encompassing biomedical research in all life sciences, the genomics revolution
will draw critical strength from engineering and computer science. Other
schools and departments at Penn are also pursuing genomics research as
we move forward on plans to integrate and coordinate these efforts into
a major University-wide initiative.
Penn and neighboring Drexel University have taken the wheel of another
revolution, thanks to a $10.5 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
to launch a Regional Nanotechnology Center. Leveraging research in the
life sciences, chemistry, physics and engineering, nanotechnology could
bring us both life-saving products, such as microscopic capsules that
selectively deliver drugs to tumors, and a wide array of molecular devices
that could make computers much faster and manufacturing much cleaner and
youre looking to ignite a high-tech revolution, you need an environment
that encourages engineers, physicists, chemists and biomedical researchers
to collaborate as a matter of habit. Again, there is no better place than
is there a place that does a better job turning creative discussions and
interactions into practical solutions to social problems. Take the creation
of the Center for Childrens Policy Practice and Research.
started out a couple of years ago as a series of brainstorming sessions
among a professor of Social Work (Richard Gelles), a pediatrician and
child psychiatrist (Annie Steinberg), a law professor (Barbara Bennett
Woodhouse), and members of Philadelphias child-advocacy community on
how to make child welfare more child-centered, grew into a collaborative
research center dedicated to helping and protecting abused and neglected
children [The Childrens Crusaders, May/June 1999].
these and other areas of cutting-edge interdisciplinary research, Penn
has the capacity to lead the world. I could easily highlight literally
hundreds of other collaborative research efforts to illustrate Penns
powerful impactin Philadelphia and around the globe. Or I could catalogue
the $546 million in sponsored research at Penn to make the same
it to say that among the leading institutions of higher education that
will play key roles in a new age of experiments and discoveries in the
21st century, no other university can surpass Penns strength of faculty,
tradition of collaboration and productive climate. Like Alan MacDiarmid,
I simply cannot imagine a better place than Penn.
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