Biomedical Research Collaboration Pulls Faculty Together
The saying "two heads are better than one" may be proven true through a brainchild of Dr. Nejat Düzgüneş, Professor of Biomedical Sciences in the Dugoni School of Dentistry. He conceived the idea of hosting a series of workshops in which scientists across Pacific's campuses who are involved in biomedical research could network and form collaborations with one another.
With invaluable aid from Dr. Geoff Lin-Cereghino, Associate Professor in the Biological Sciences Department, and Dr. Joanna Albala, Director of Research Initiatives & Strategic Partnerships for the College of the Pacific, the idea has gotten off the ground.
Faculty from the College of the Pacific, the Dugoni School of Dentistry and the Thomas Long School of Pharmacy were invited to participate in a series of workshops—in June, July and December—that have resulted in the formation of small groups of biomedical researchers who are teaming up on common research projects to solicit funding. The newly formed network is called "Pacific Connection."
The Office of Research and Graduate Studies as well as the Deans of the three schools provided funding that made the workshops possible.
Dr. Albala, who helps College of the Pacific faculty and students seek research funding both within the University and externally, was a natural choice to facilitate Pacific Connection. "The idea is to get people who are involved in biomedical research talking with each other and sharing ideas," she said.
Pacific Connection Fills a Gap
Drs. Düzgüneş, Lin-Cereghino and Albala each lamented that University-wide forums to network and collaborate with other faculty, especially across schools, have been limited. Professors have to seek out such situations individually.
"We really had no idea what others were doing in the biomedical area at the three campuses," said Dr. Lin-Cereghino, referring to the Dental School in San Francisco and the Pharmacy School and College of the Pacific in Stockton. "Some people were astonished to find out what was going on in other departments and schools."
Dr. Düzgüneş said, "As we became aware of some of the challenges our colleagues were dealing with in their research, we each started thinking 'How can I contribute to this? Maybe this can piggyback on my own research.'"
Workshops Spark New Ideas
During the summer workshops, faculty participants shared information about the biomedical-related projects they were working on, particular areas of expertise they held, and special resources they had available such as lab equipment and specialized techniques. This information was made available as an electronic file to all the participants.
The December workshop culminated with the formation of small research groups with overlapping or closely related research goals. By putting their heads together, these researchers came up with new ideas that take advantage of their collective wisdom and expertise.
"I think a lot of people had their eyes opened and were pleasantly surprised and encouraged to learn of other expertise at Pacific that could prove synergistic," said Dr. Lin-Cereghino. "Good things are coming out of the workshops. New ideas are springing forth and potential fits are being revealed."
Dr. Düzgüneş, who hopes to see the program repeated and expanded in the future, said, "Next time we may be able to include faculty from additional fields, including Bioengineering."
The next step is for each group to further define their new research projects and work with Dr. Albala to find funding.
In addition to forming the potential research groups, the participants discussed ways to enhance research capabilities at Pacific. Among the points that surfaced was the need for more resources to maintain and operate lab equipment.
"Pacific Connection not only facilitated networking and collaboration, but it also identified how we can strengthen our research capabilities at the University," said Düzgüneş. "And that will ultimately enable our students to participate in advanced, state-of-the-art research projects."