In my work I focus on problems at the intersection of fundamental fluid dynamics and health, with a particular focus on the fundamental physical mechanisms shaping microorganisms and pathogen transport, adaptation, and evolution critical to disease transmission. The pandemic has shown clearly that we can address societal and health challenges of great magnitude only with a combination of deep disciplinary insight combined with true transdisciplinary collaboration. Nurturing, building, and achieving this fine balance of depth and synergistic exchange between fields will be a crucial responsibility of universities in the future.
Although research grants in the US and Europe increasingly encourage interdisciplinary approaches, actual integration remains loose, in part because true integration is highly challenging in the historically siloed spheres of training and scholarship. A more promising attempt would be to build truly interdisciplinary centres/institutes focused on problem solving with depth in individual disciplines, yet with researchers from different fields working side-by-side and interacting from the very beginning of research question design; and a focus on grand challenges of infectious diseases, or the environment, for example. Such centres would not just be focused on research but would also train via mentoring and teaching; and the shared physical space would nurture truly synergistic transdisciplinary work.