Real world problems, such as climate change, do not fit neatly into the sphere of a single scientific subject but instead require collaborative research across subject specialisms. Interdisciplinary Science/Natural Sciences is a degree where written modules use the theory and expertise of multiple scientific disciplines. Problems are not presented as separate single subject tasks but instead are tackled using a cross-discipline approach drawing on knowledge from experts in the field.
This approach has been recognised by the Institute of Physics (IoP) as being academically important. Our Interdisciplinary Science degrees have led to support from the IoP and the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).
Natural Sciences at the University of Leicester
At Leicester, rather than attending generic Physics, Chemistry or Biology courses, you will be solving interdisciplinary problems from the start. This is not an easy task and the earlier modules are designed to help you develop managerial and problem-solving skills so that you're equipped to deal with the more demanding courses in the later years. You will tackle a different problem every few weeks, combining a different set of disciplines. This provides a varied experience, offering a basic grounding across the disciplines but allowing you to focus on areas of most interest to you.
The aim of the first module is to introduce you to your fellow students. It also introduces you to a major difference between school and university. There is no one book with the right answers. You will learn how to identify the right questions, and where to find the information or the people you need to solve problems that you uncover.
As an example - in your first year the Neuroscience and Computation module brings together the topics of neuroanatomy and computational complexity allowing students to compare biological and electronic computational systems.
We are able to take an integrated approach as all of the core modules are built around research-led learning. This is a system of learning often used in Medicine and Engineering. The application of science to practical problems makes individual and group based research the ideal mode of teaching for this course. Research shows that students trained in this method are more like to be able to cope with novel situations and problems. The interdisciplinary science required in the coming years means that there will be no shortage of novel situations. You will be introduced to neuroanatomy: the cell types present in the peripheral and central nervous system and how these are organised to produce an integrated nervous system. Building upon this knowledge you also explore the technological side of computational complexity and resources needed to solve a problem. Even if a problem is solvable, it is clearly pointless trying to write a program to solve it if the quickest method would still take longer than the lifetime of the Universe to run. You will investigate which problems can be solved in a “reasonable” amount of time.
In addition we also run a "support" module throughout the first two years on supplemental skills. This involves communication and presentation skills as well as computing, IT and maths. The maths comes in two flavours: a user friendly version for students who do not have a strong mathematical background but who will develop the essential skills in mathematics over the three years of the programme; and a mathematical modelling option in most modules for those with a stronger mathematical background (for example a good maths A level). On completing the course you should have all the problem-solving and communication skills of an Arts student with the advantage of also having a thorough grounding in the scientific method and extensive knowledge of two or three disciplines.