The Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society recently hired climate scientists Yi Ming and Hanqin Tian, the institute’s first core faculty members.
“The Schiller Institute is going to be the centerpiece of the University’s vision,” Ming said. “From my position as a core faculty member, I hope to contribute to the further growth of the institute and contribute to the building of the University’s future.”
Laura Steinberg, the executive director of the Schiller Institute, said the institute focused on finding faculty at the top of the climate change and energy transition fields during the hiring process, but also on fostering an interdisciplinary approach toward addressing public issues.
“We wanted these faculty to not only be excellent researchers and teachers, but we also wanted them to be people who would want to reach beyond the discipline they were primarily active in,” Steinberg said. “We wanted faculty who wanted to do scholarly work and work with students and also wanted their work to have a major impact for the public.”
Steinberg also said that, over time, she hopes that Ming and Tian will create new interdisciplinary courses to address unique aspects of climate change.
“They’ll be jointly appointed in the Schiller Institute and the department of earth and environmental sciences,” Steinberg said. “We expect that they’ll create new courses, interdisciplinary in nature, that will touch on various important aspects of climate change.”
Global collaboration is necessary in responding to climate change, as not all nations can adapt to the changing climate, according to Tian.
“The U.S. can respond quicker to climate change, while developing countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, or South America don’t have the infrastructure to do so,” Tian said. “So we need global collaboration, such as the Paris Agreement.”
Tian said that the Paris Agreement—an international treaty surrounding climate change—is a collaborative effort. Establishing an integrated sciences approach at Boston College allows a similar collaborative effort between various academic departments, he said.
“The mission is really trying to solve a common problem: the sustainable development challenge,” Tian said. “So I think it allows faculty and students to work together within the college community, within Boston, and beyond.”
Tian then explained the integrated system approach, which addresses issues by using unique perspectives to tackle different parts of the systematic problem. Schiller’s goal, he said, is to educate students on tackling such systemic problems.
“In the system approach, we view the Earth as a whole and link it up to different aspects of society,” Tian said. “You could be a business major, biology major, or computer science major, but you’ll all come together in this integrated approach to target this complex problem.”
Tian ultimately said that action must be taken soon, as environmental problems affect not only the present, but the future as well, making timely, integrated solutions critical.
“Today’s environmental problems affect us, but also use the next generation’s resources,” Tian said. “We must consider the ecological interface, and how it can be improved not only through sustainable development, but also economic development.”