Moving From Interdisciplinary Science to Interdisciplinary Learning

Punit Jain, CannonDesign

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There is no doubt interdisciplinary science is becoming more popular throughout academia. With new technologies, greater interconnectedness, and incentive grants, there has been no better time to take our established notions of interdisciplinary science and advance the concept even further. Moving beyond the inclusion of only basic science curriculums in a building by integrating other non-science academic fields within the same building, we encourage students to learn at an entirely new level. By embracing a truly interdisciplinary environment, we can spur collaborative learning and research across non-traditional disciplines and departments.

Many universities have tried to better integrate non-science fields into academic science facilities through strategies such as including flexible classrooms that any professor at the university can use. While this approach is a good first step, we need to think beyond this baseline to a more advanced interdisciplinary learning environment schematic. The future of true interdisciplinary learning environments is one that not only invites other departments to share spaces, but also has a deep commitment to integration at every step of the process, from visioning to strategic planning to curriculum, while being environmentally responsible, economically sustainable, and focused on human health.

The presentation will explore specific design strategies and case studies from Webster University, Radford University, Old Dominion University, and SUNY Oswego that can be utilized for the future Interdisciplinary Learning Environment.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn integration strategies beyond basic science disciplines to more diverse academic fields;
  • Explore strategic planning concepts that encourage multidisciplinary learning;
  • Review best practices of successful environments that promote holistic thinking; and
  • Learn about environmentally responsible spaces with an emphasis on daylight, views to outside, transparency, thermal comfort, material selection and more.


Punit Jain, AIA, LEED Fellow, and Senior VP at CannonDesign, is a leader in the science, technology and sustainability practices and brings extensive experience in the integration of systems, spaces and experiences for higher education, corporate and federal clients. He frequently presents at national and international conferences, has served on the national board of USGBC, currently serves on the Board of I2SL, the advisory board of SEFA, and is the founding president of the I2SL St. Louis Chapter.


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