Pioneer scholars employ interdisciplinary strategies in STEM research

Pioneer Academics > News > Pioneer scholars employ interdisciplinary strategies in STEM research

Pioneer scholars employ interdisciplinary strategies in STEM research


For most of his life, Jack (astronomy, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from China, didn’t think much about the night sky. Living in a city, the stars he could see were always dimmed by light pollution. A trip to New Zealand changed everything. Suddenly, he was able to see brilliant constellations, and his interest in astronomy was piqued. At Pioneer, Jack did research on white holes. In his research, he quickly realized that he could use tools from other disciplines to solve problems in astronomy––namely, physics and math. “At Pioneer, research is not limited to a given subject… When working on white holes, I derived the pressure by working with a mathematical equation of an idealized sphere,” he says. Jack explains that physics is even more relevant because “Astronomy is actually derived from physics. Physics is the study of objects, and astronomy is also the study of objects—they are just far away. I found physics to be a great tool when studying astronomy.”

Most education systems are organized by discipline with little crossover between different subjects. While this is a convenient way to organize content––or in the case of Pioneer’s academic placement system, to connect students with research concentrations that match their interests and talents––there is much more overlap between disciplines in the real world. This is particularly true in STEM fields, where the insights of one discipline can be used to solve problems in another. Hung (engineering, 2019), a Pioneer scholar from the United States, says,     “People start putting different STEM topics in different boxes, and when it’s not in their box they get kind of surprised by it. But you can take a step back and see the field of STEM as an overall broad topic where things aren’t put in boxes and they’re sort of intertwined in different ways… you are never going to innovate or create things solely in one field.” Pioneer’s highly specialized research concentrations encourage interdisciplinary approaches to research. 

Some STEM fields are inherently interdisciplinary. For May (environmental studies, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from South Korea, it was particularly important that her cohort sessions explored a wide range of topics across disciplines. “For fields that deal with interdisciplinary subjects—especially environmental studies, which has to involve biology, chemistry, as well as politics and policy aspects––it’s really important that we explore as many fields as possible before settling on a particular topic,” she explains. 

Nabaa (engineering, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from the United States, took an interdisciplinary approach both to customize her research topic to her interests and to become a more well-rounded engineer. Nabaa knew she wanted to incorporate medicine into her research paper, and came up with the idea to design a device that would help elderly patients take the correct dosage of medication at the correct time. “For the first month… [the course] was about electronics and coding, which doesn’t involve medicine. But I already had knowledge about biology and chemistry from school and my personal activities. So I was able to combine those with my engineering research, and that made me a very well-rounded engineer. I was able to pull all these topics that I’m interested in and that are relevant to my research goal from my [cohort sessions] and from my courses outside Pioneer,” she explains. 

Conducting research in STEM means making creative use of the tools available to solve a given problem. More often than not, these tools come from a wide range of disciplines––whether it be a mathematical equation that reveals something about an astronomical body or insights from the medical field that inform an engineering design. Pioneer scholars learn to be flexible and apply knowledge across contexts, becoming creative problem-solvers.

Dear educator friend,

In the critical process of preparing students to transition to college, you are key. The
ramifications of your guidance are far-reaching.

The Pioneer Research Program believes that it, too, has a role to play in preparing students of special potential and passion for learning. This is a role we trust you will appreciate knowing about. Our mission is to offer a deep and otherwise unavailable opportunity to exceptionally motivated young scholars who want to learn and research at the college level and to explore their potential for innovation.

What makes Pioneer a unique deep-dive learning experience is not just the mentorship of distinguished professors. It is the rigorous quality controls developed conjointly by Pioneer and Oberlin College. Professors (must) adhere to rubrics for

1) setting learning goals;

2) syllabus development;

3) oversight, feedback and evaluation, and

4) grading standardization.

This rigorous academic system is supported by thorough admission process and a high-minded ethics code. The combination gives students an exceptional learning experience that is brought to fruition in a college-level research paper documenting their findings.

You can follow this link Pioneer’s concrete academic system to learn more about the academic system. Academic quality control and academic oversight assure Pioneer’s focus is on learning and learners, and therefore all of our practices were built upon the following principles:

No conflict of interests Pioneer’s academic ethical standards
Because of its high academic and ethical standards, the Pioneer program has earned the trust of college admissions departments and formed the basis for the ground-breaking collaboration with Oberlin College. Pioneer scholars get two college credits upon completing their Pioneer research.

Click to learn about Pioneer and Oberlin College's groundbreaking academic collaboration.

Pioneer has a rigorous admission process. Students who have genuine academic interests and are highly motivated are a good fit with Pioneer’s values. Pioneer’s founding board insisted that Pioneer commit to a professor-blind policy during the application process, ensuring that applicants have authentic field interest and correct priorities. Consequently, no information about professors is released before admission to the program. This policy is much appreciated and respected by universities. Professor-blind admission policy
On this page is the critical information needed to meet your needs.

If you have additional questions, feel free to let us know how we can help you by emailing or calling 855-572-8863.


Matthew Jaskol

Founder & Program Director