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Institute for Advanced Study wins $1.58 million grant

| Monday, March 3, 2014

Notre Dame’s Institute for Advanced Study received a Templeton Grant in the fall of 2012 for $1.58 million to research questions about the nature of human existence.

The grant, provided by the John Templeton Foundation, will be used by the Institute for Advanced Study to “bring together, particularly, areas of religion and science,” Eric Bugyis said.

Bugyis, coordinator for undergraduate research in the Institute for Advanced Study, said the grant would fund two senior researchers analyzing questions about the nature of human creativity and the place of the mind in nature.

“Really big questions can unite disciplines,” Bugyis said. “That is what the Institute is about, in general — trying to bring disciplines and trying to overcome the narrow focus you get often in university research.”

Bugyis said those questions are best answered with interdisciplinary study and working to understand the common core of the different disciplines, especially when subjects don’t share an obvious connection.

“You might think religion and science come together on issues like creationism and evolution and that’s going to be where the conversation happens,” he said. “For us though, the more fruitful dialogue happens when you go deeper — so it’s not a flat surface, it’s a sphere. The most interesting places where they intersect are not the surface, but the center.”

Bugyis said he has called upon undergraduates from different disciplines to find universal, yet unique, perspectives and answers.

“We wanted to bring in students, because we have this interdisciplinary focus, from various disciplines that were not necessarily specific to the projects these fellows working on. … So more than just logistically, students are really contributing to the project at a conceptual level — challenging the researchers that they work with to think in different to not only how they conduct their research and how they present it,” Bugyis said.

Senior Iona Hughan, an undergraduate researcher for the Institute for Advanced Study, said collaborating with students from such different backgrounds has made for interesting research situations.

“Try putting a psychologist who is investigating the idea that a person is only a brain in the same room with an anthropologist who works with only empty skulls,” Hughan said. “It’s fascinating to watch them force one another to think in new ways and find common ground, and this is a big part of what the Institute is doing.”

 

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