It is widely recognized in the scientific research community, among policy-makers in federal funding agencies, and in industry that collaborations between the quantitative and biological sciences are critical to research in all aspects of biology, from uncovering insights about the most basic biological mechanisms to inspiring new advances in drug development and the population health sciences. Innovations in biomedicine, where "biomedicine" is broadly defined to include any developments relevant to the study of human/animal health along the continuum from basic biology to the study of humans/animals at the population level, will increasingly be achieved through an interdisciplinary approach involving the merging of the quantitative and biological sciences. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap Initiative, for example, focuses on catalyzing such merging of disciplines, based on exactly such reasoning.
Although conventional wisdom might suggest that universities with colleges of medicine and public health are the likely focal points for this enterprise, it will take a much broader range of expertise to tackle the vast range of emerging challenges than colleges of medicine and public health alone can assemble. For example, expertise in the development of animal model systems for studying human disease; in advanced mathematical modeling of biological mechanisms at the molecular, cellular, host, and population levels; and in advanced statistical techniques for making sense of massive data sets, for testing the relevance of mathematical descriptions of biological mechanisms by application to data, and for optimal decision-making in population health science based on complex data are all essential elements that must be brought to bear on these challenges.
With its strengths in research in the mathematical, statistical, life, genomic, and veterinary sciences, North Carolina State University (NCSU) is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of this revolution in interdisciplinary quantitative-biological sciences research in biomedicine, offering assets not duplicated elsewhere. The CQSB has been established at NCSU to foster the collaborations between researchers in the quantitative and biological sciences necessary to attack critical, high-impact problems in biomedicine. The Center is designed to deploy the unique, renowned expertise in these sciences resident at NCSU but, when appropriate, also provides a direct mechanism for pairing it with that of biomedical and quantitative scientists outside the University, e.g., from schools of medicine or from industry, spearheading synergistic collaborations that might otherwise not take place and expanding the sphere of impact of NCSU researchers.
The CQSB is a research project-oriented center whose mission is to bring together scientists in the quantitative and biological disciplines to collaborate on research projects arising from a variety of internal and external sources. That is, the major focus of the CQSB is to identify specific research projects with explicit, targeted goals whose successful execution can benefit from and, indeed, is dependent on the integration of expertise across the quantitative and biological sciences. Research projects may arise in a number of ways: they may be conceived by CQSB members and others in the NCSU community, or they may be brought to the CQSB by researchers from outside the university in academia and industry. The CQSB takes on such projects and assembles collaborative teams with the necessary expertise. By doing so and establishing itself as a focal point for collaborative activity, recognized within and outside the University, the CQSB addresses the immediate problems presented by the specific projects, but also as a consequence provides the foundation for longer-term, broader interdisciplinary research and relationships. Collaborations fostered by the CQSB are likely to lead to successful applications for funding to support further research from agencies such as NIH and to sustained relationships with industry. The Research activities page provides examples of the types of research projects CQSB fosters.
The project-driven nature of the CQSB sets it apart from many other NCSU research centers, which function as mechanisms for recognizing and connecting groups of faculty who have related research interests but do not focus on leveraging explicitly their expertise for activities on specific, defined projects. The CQSB does not compete with other centers; rather, it complements them by engaging them and their affiliated faculty as partners for collaboration. The NCSU Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research (CCMTR), the>Center for Research in Scientific Computation (CRSC), and the Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and Pharmacokinetics (CCTRP) are examples of NCSU centers with which the CQSB would be a natural partner. The project-driven model of the CQSB represents a fruitful mechanism by which critical interdisciplinary activities that can lead to new external research funding can be fostered.
It is essential that the scientists of tomorrow not only be skilled in particular aspects of quantitative and biomedical sciences but be able to transcend disciplinary boundaries and work at their interface. Parallel to its research mission, the CQSB also serves as a focal point for novel pre- and post-doctoral training of the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists (see Training activities).
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