Main content
Interdisciplinary collaborations forged through ‘Constructive Collisions’
Constructive Collisions speakers with Kimberly Eck

Constructive Collisions February 2022: Associate Vice President for Research, Kimberly Eck (bottom-right) with participating Emory Faculty members Xiao Hu, Lars Ruthotto, Razieh Nabi, Donald Lee, Abeed Sarker, Lauren Klein, John Banja, and Joyce Hu.

Great ideas are often produced in moments of dire need, sheer curiosity, or by mistake. However, some of the greatest ideas come from a diverse huddle of bright minds working diligently to answer a pressing question. At Emory University, those huddles are encouraged through programming called Constructive Collisions. 

Since 2021, Constructive Collisions, produced by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research (SVPR), have served as a shared space for Emory researchers to learn, connect, and be inspired by the innovative work happening within the research enterprise. Through a series of engaging activities such as speed networking, lightning talks, discussions, and pitch sessions, new partnerships are forged between faculty from various disciplines.

Thematically, Constructive Collisions cover three interdisciplinary themes identified by the SVPR Research Council: Global Health, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, and lastly Race, Equity, Resilience, and Social Justice. The event series also aligns with Emory’s core priorities, such as cancer, brain health, and infectious diseases. To expand impact, Emory partners with centers or university-wide initiatives – for example, with the Biological Discovery through Chemical Innovation (BDCI), a collaborative initiative between the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology in the Emory University School of Medicine and the Department of Chemistry in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences. For this installment of Constructive Collisions, the two worked in tandem to produce the inaugural BCDI Summit: Constructive Collisions at the Chemistry-Biology Interface. The summit featured lightning talks by several BDCI faculty followed by a pitch competition centered around the theme of Precision Medicine.

With the goal of promoting interdisciplinary collaborations, the events provide an opportunity to meet faculty with shared interests, explore teaming, and even pursue seed funding to support new, innovative projects. Associate Vice President for Research, Kimberly Eck, explains the value of the seed grant opportunities, “We host Constructive Collisions to prepare for seeds that are awarded through a traditional RFP process and sometimes award mini-seeds on-the-spot during pitch sessions. These seeds play an important role in our research ecosystem.” Eck details the typical uses of the funding, “Regardless of the mechanism; seeds come with the expectation that the recipient will use the funding, for example, to de-risk a new method or generate preliminary data that can be used to seek external funding.”

In February, Constructive Collisions explored the topic of Race, Equity, Resilience, and Social Justice. Attendees of the event were provided with funding opportunities from many organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ford Foundation. Two participating groups received on-the-spot seed grants:

 Team One 

  • Dayna Johnson, RSPH, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology 
  • David Lynn, ECAS, Professor, Chemistry 
  • Heeju Sohn, ECAS, Assistant Professor, Sociology 

Team Two 

  • Monica Parker, SOM, Assistant Professor, Neurology: Cognitive Neurobehavior 
  • Zanthia Wiley, SOM, Associate Professor, Medicine: Infectious Disease 

Constructive Collisions continued by hosting two events with a focus on AI.Humanity. Participants explored the potential areas in which artificial intelligence can be applied to improve the quality of life and society. In alignment with the event’s theme, Emory is partnering with Georgia Tech to offer a collaborative seed program for which faculty from both institutions will be eligible. Grant applications are due on April 27th. Read full RFA here.  

“I am extremely proud of the work being done by our faculty here at Emory”, says Deborah Watkins Bruner, Emory’s Senior Vice President for Research. “Dr. Eck and her team have created a grand opportunity for researchers to leverage their expertise to deepen the collaborative relationships within Emory and our partners.”

Constructive Collisions will continue in the fall semester. If you have an idea for a constructive collision or would like to partner, write to Kimberly Eck at

Recent News