Creating Faculty-Driven Catalysts for Sustainable Collaborations

Feb 26, 2016

Presented first as an outstanding and important session at the recent a2ru 2015 Annual Conference, Groundworks, this webinar explores how a team at the University of Utah created an innovative and low-cost faculty driven model to foster transdisciplinary research by engaging individual researchers from widely different disciplines around a common theme in ways that will move their own and others’ fields forward.

Gain an understanding of the impetus and process for beginning a major cross-campus collaborative symposium, the benefits to participating for faculty’s professional development and practice, the small supports needed to sustain the initiative, and finally, the robust and continuing curricular and research impacts.

Creating Faculty-Driven Catalysts Webinar Transcript

Faculty Driven Catalysts Presentation Slides


Nalini Nadkarni
Professor, Department of Biology

University of Utah

Nadkarni’s interest was first drawn to rain forest ecology due to the contradiction offered by its plant life. There was a great abundance and variety of plant life within the rain forest despite its nutrient poor soil, and her goal was to discover how the plant life was sustained. Her studies within the canopy revealed that the epiphytes, which are non-parasitic plants such as orchids and ferns that live on the branches and trunks of other plants, were trapping organic material beneath their root system. This organic material eventually formed a nutrient rich mat, and trees in the rain forest had developed aerial roots, stemming from their trunks and branches, in order to absorb these nutrients as well. The aerial roots growing into the mats aided the rain forest trees by providing the nourishment that they did not receive from the nutrient poor soil.

Nadkarni and her work in the Costa Rican rain forest were featured in the 1988 PBS series, The Second Voyage of the Mimi, starring a young Ben Affleck. She maintains an interest in public outreach, and her work was highlighted on the web page of the National Science Foundation.[2]She is the author of Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees and has delivered TED Talks on Conserving the Canopy and Life Science in Prison. She also wrote some text (foreword and quotes) for a book for young explorers entitled, Kingfisher Voyages: Rain Forest, published in 2006. Her work has included developing moss growing techniques with prisoners [3], as well as bringing artists, like musician and biologist G. Duke Brady, into the forest canopy to write and perform. [4] [5]

An Emeritus Professor at The Evergreen State College, she currently is a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah.

Glenn Prestwich
Presidential Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Special Presidential Assistant for Faculty Entrepreneurism
University of Utah

Dr. Glenn D. Prestwich is Presidential Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Special Presidential Assistant for Faculty Entrepreneurism, and directed two Utah Centers of Excellence: the Center for Cell Signaling (1997-2002) and the Center for Therapeutic Biomaterials (2004 – 2008). His passion for translational research and scholarship led to his appointment as director of the Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholarsprogram at the U of Utah (2008 – current). He was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (2014 – ) and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2005 – ).

He has launched over nine small life science companies in the last 20 years: Clear Solutions Biotech (1994-2001); Echelon Biosciences, Inc. (CSO, 1997-2003); Sentrx Surgical, Inc. (CSO, 2003-2004); Carbylan BioSurgery, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA)(2004-current); Sentrx Animal Care, Inc. (Salt Lake City)(2005-current);Glycosan BioSystems, Inc. (Salt Lake City) (CSO, 2005-2011); GlycoMira Therapeutics, Inc. (CSO, Salt Lake City) (2008 – current); Metallosensors, Inc. (CEO, 2011 – 2014): Deuteria Agrochemicals LLC (2013 – current); and Deuteria Biomaterials LLC (2013 – current). He is currently a Scientific Advisor for Echelon-Frontier Scientific, University Medical Pharmaceutics, Elastin Specialities, AshaVision, Jade Therapeutics, American MedChem, Organonovo, Modern Meadow, and BioTime.

He received the Utah Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology for 2006, was awarded the 1998 Paul Dawson Biotechnology Award and the 2008 Volwiler Research Award of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. In 2010, he received the University of Utah Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award, as well as the 2010 Rooster Prize of the International Society for Hyaluronan Science for outstanding contributions to hyaluronan-derived products. During his 37 years as a faculty member, he has published over 650 technical papers, patents, and book chapters, and has trained over 125 postgraduate scientists. In 2011, he was invited to serve as a member of the editorial advisory board for Science Translational Medicine. His university research programs included (i) new reagents for lipid signaling in cell biology and cancer treatment, (ii) biomaterials for wound repair, cartilage repair, tissue engineering, scar-free healing, and toxicology and xenograft models, and (iii) sulfated glycosaminoglycan analogues as inflammation modulators for clinical use.

Glenn’s outside interests include: singing first tenor in the Utah Symphony Chorus, using his commercial pilot license to fly non-emergency medical patients for AngelFlight West, and serving on the board of directors of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival and the Salt Lake City NOVA Chamber Music Series.

Sarah Jack Hinners
Director, Center for Ecological Planning and Design, College of Architecture + Planning; Research Assistant Professor, City & Metropolitan Planning

University of Utah

I am a landscape and urban ecologist. As a scientist in a planning department, much of my work centers on bridging the gap between academic research and real-world planning and design applications, that is, between “ways of knowing” and “ways of doing”. My research interests focus topically on the ecological, economic and social roles of nature and natural systems in and around cities and on understanding human settlements as complex, adaptive, social-ecological systems. I work currently in two main areas: 1) green infrastructure-related questions ranging from the ecological processes occurring within stormwater bioretention systems to regional green infrastructure planning and implementation and 2) developing processes that link people, knowledge, and resilience in the face of change, often having to do with infrastructure systems. Much of my research also includes a focus on urban water issues in the urbanizing landscapes of the Western US.  I teach courses on urban ecology, systems thinking, and green infrastructure.

Russell Isabella
Associate Professor, Family And Consumer Studies; Adjunct Associate Professor, Psychology Department; Director of Undergraduate Studies, Family And Consumer Studies

University of Utah

Research interests include: infant social and emotional development, attachment, parent-child interaction, child development, identity, self-efficacy, play, parent education, arts-informed communication of science, accessibility of STEM to disenfranchised populations, foster care and adoption and disruption of attachment.


Ellen Bromberg
Director, Biannual International Screendance Festival and Workshop, Modern Dance Department; Founding Director, The Graduate Certificate in Screendance, Modern Dance Department; Professor, Modern Dance Department; Distinguished Professor, School Of Dance
University of Utah

Ellen Bromberg is a filmmaker, media designer, choreographer, curator, and educator. A 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, she has been creating dances for companies and solo artists for over 30 years. She has received numerous awards for her work including three Isadora Duncan Dance Awards; one for outstanding achievement in choreography for “The Black Dress,” which was subsequently broadcast on PBS Television’s “Alive From Off Center,” a second for her work with Douglas Rosenberg on Singing Myself A Lullaby and a third for Visual Design for her work with Della Davidson for Collapse (suddenly falling down). She was also honored with a UC Berkeley Townsend Humanities Fellowship, two UC Davis residencies as a Granada Visiting Artist, a Bonnie Bird American Choreographer Award, a Pew National Dance/Media Fellowship and with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the George Soros Foundation, among others. Most recently she received the 2012 University of Utah Distinguished Innovation and Impact Award.

Ms. Bromberg has been commissioned to create new work by universities, companies and presenters including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, The American Dance Festival, Transitions Dance Company of the Laban Centre in London, and Ballet Arizona. Having been presented throughout the United States, Ms. Bromberg’s choreography has also been seen in the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Korea and Japan.  American presenters include Franklin Furnace/P.S.122, The Riverside Dance Festival, and Dance Theater Workshop in NYC, the Allegro! Series in Seattle, and the Next Decade of New Performance Festival, Arts Festival Atlanta, and Dancers’ Collective in Atlanta.  In the Bay Area her choreographic work was presented by Theatre Artaud, The Bay Area Dance Series, The Edge Festival, The Stern Grove Festival, and Footwork Studio among others.

Since 1996 Bromberg has been working at the intersection of live performance and media, creating her own works as well as collaborating with other choreographers including Pat Graney, Deborah Hay, Della Davidson, Stephen Koester, Victoria Marks, Douglas Rosenberg and Zvi Gotheiner. In 2001 she was commissioned by the University of Hawaii as part of The National College Choreography Initiative to create Here and Then. A Granada Visiting Artist at UC Davis in 2006, Bromberg created The Weight of Memory, an evening-length media-dance piece created in collaboration Della Davidson, which premiered at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, and was subsequently restaged on Repertory Dance Theater in Salt Lake City in 2008. In 2011 she was a Townsend Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley where she lectured and created a new multi-media performance piece with Lisa Wymore.

As an Artist in Residence at the Institute for Studies in the Arts at Arizona State University, she created the collaborative work Falling to Earth. An interdisciplinary performance piece created specifically for the Intelligent Stage, Falling to Earth combined interactive media and with live performance, and was presented at the International Dance and Technology Conference in 1999. She is also a founding member of ADAPT (Association for Dance and Performance Telematics), an online telematic performance community.

Bromberg’s screen works have been broadcast on numerous public television stations and screened at national and international festivals. She received a Gold Award from the Houston International Film Festival for Dancing on the Edge, The Black Dress in 1990.  Singing Myself a Lullaby, a documentary on a dancer with AIDS, was commissioned by The Project on Death in America and produced by Wisconsin Public Television. Lullabywas broadcast nationally on numerous PBS affiliates. Another documentary, Molissa Fenley and Peter Boal, The Re-staging of State of Darkness,premiered in 2003 at Lincoln Center’s Dance on Camera Festival. This, along with other dance films, has been screened at a variety of national and international dance film festivals including VideoDanza, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Dance Camera Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey, to name a few. Her most recent documentary on Deborah Hay premiered at Cinedans Amsterdam in 2011. In addition, Ms. Bromberg’s essays have appeared in a number of print and on-line publications including Envisioning Dance on Film (Routeledge), Terpsichore en Ceros y Unos – Ensayos de Videodanza, Extensions: The On-line Journal for Embodied Technology, and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Journal, to name a few.

A frequent guest artist, Ms. Bromberg has been in residence at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country, Europe and Canada.  She has also held faculty positions at the University of Utah, Mills College and the University of Arizona.  She has frequently been of service to the field for a variety of state arts agencies and foundations. Ms. Bromberg was the founding director of the College of Fine Arts’ Center for Interdisciplinary Arts and Technology and is also the founder of the first Graduate Certificate in Screendance. She is currently a Professor of Dance at the University of Utah, where she is also the founding director of the International Screendance Festival and Workshop.