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FeedBack: Reflecting on the Interdisciplinary Research Process

Steven looks at cows in a barn

The Food From Thought and Arrell Food Institute grad cohort visited several Ontario farms.

Steven Lam is a Research Assistant with Food From Thought and a PhD student examining the development and evaluation of a surveillance system for Indigenous food systems in the context of climate change with Dr. Sherilee Harper in the Ontario Veterinary College.

FeedBack is a blog of reflections by the 2017 AFI-FFT Grad Cohort on their experiences so far in the program.

Interdisciplinary research endeavours are becoming increasingly popular. A common rationale for embarking on such endeavours is that complex problems, such as food security or climate change, cannot be addressed from a single disciplinary perspective. These problems require people from different disciplinary perspectives to work together, share ideas and experiences, and develop innovative solutions.

At the Arrell Food Institute, myself and other graduate students from all seven colleges of the University of Guelph were brought together to address global agri-food issues. First, we brainstormed agri-food issues broadly as a large group, and then branched out into smaller teams based on the themes identified. I joined a group of four students to focus on climate change impacts, which I believe, are severe, widespread, and potentially undermine all food security issues. From my public health background, I hope to contribute systems thinking and evaluative thinking to the interdisciplinary research process.

Although working in interdisciplinary teams is not new to me, each experience continues to be incredibly enriching. What is unique about this experience is the space, time, and resources offered by Arrell Food Institute. Going further, the institute has done a fantastic job facilitating workshops and fostering relationships. I find that I am learning a lot about the perspectives from other fields, and the possible approaches they can offer. I am excited to see what innovative solutions a gender-balanced group of public health, philosophy, plant agriculture, and water resources engineering graduate students, working closely with a community organization, can come up with.