Multidisciplinary: Tool to Tackle Problems in Science



If you notice in the trend of superhero movies released, as compared to old movies, all superheroes are fighting together with enemies. Its means enemies are getting more stronger day by day. In the same way, science also needs to be stronger to fight enemies, but in science, enemies look different than in movies. In science, enemies are a problem in nature: energy, pollution and diseases. I studied organic chemist in my college and always thought to tackle these issues. My main focus during my PhD is to design a molecule which can be used as a drug in the pharma industry. While reading all the research article published by academic groups, I thought why these molecules are still not used in the pharma industry. Recently, I came across one article in which author mentioned that most of the C-N couplings run in the final steps of the synthesis of the highly functionalized drug failed to deliver any product at all.[1] This is the point where organic chemist need Avengers (group of super heroes) to solve industrial problem. It leads to multidisciplinary research where industry and academia is require to work together. In my opinion, the problem is due to the difference in reaction condition in industry and academia. Which can be overcome by such type of a collaboration like a COSMIC project, where different researchers from a different background is working together with industries. In my opinion, working in a multidisciplinary project rather than in a multidisciplinary lab is a worthy decision. For example, my lab is working on organic synthesis, and I am working on process intensification. For me and in most of the cases, this makes it challenging to discuss ideas with lab members and get the right feedback. I can understand this problem because it’s difficult to be expert in every field. Here is the solution, COSMIC project where we have regular meetings and discussion with an experienced professor from different background and industrial partners. We are working in different stages like in the first stage, ESRs from organic synthesis are using nano-metal catalyst despite to tradition homogeneous catalyst to synthesize valuable compounds. The second stage, ESRs from chemical engineering are designing new reactors according to the need of organic synthesis which can be used in microwave and ultrasound. The third stage, ESRs from physics are working on efficiency part which is very important from the industrial point of view. In last but not least, we are studying the environmental effect and cost of production.

The most significant advantage of multidisciplinary project is chance to work in the different field. Especially, in my case during my secondment, I will work in the material science lab as well as in a company. Sometimes it’s very difficult to move from one place to another place but good planning will definitely help (for more tips read the BLOG by Heidy Ramirez, Arkema).

Finally, I want to say especially to new PhD students:

You have to leave your comfortable background and should try to learn the different field, which can lead to being very good discovery like the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.


Prabhat Ranjan, KU Leuven



[1]  D. C. Blakemore, L. Castro, I. Churcher, D. C. Rees, A. W. Thomas, D. M. Wilson, A. Wood, Nat. Chem. 2018, 10, 383–394.