Bob Chen ~ Urban Oceanographer


Find out more about Bob's collaborations
Dr. Bob Chen's world revolves around collaborations. Designing a new data gathering sensor with engineers, mapping a watershed with environmental modelers, working with district science coordinators on new curriculum, providing support for science teachers - whether in research or outreach, collaboration is the structure underpinning all of these activities.

The COSEE New England program Ocean Science Education Institute (OSEI) brought researchers and educators together to collaboratively develop ocean science curriculum, creating a model of meeting the needs of both groups and fostering mutual trust and respect. "The largest issue is breaking those cultural boundaries and then gaining trust among both of those communities," says Bob. "The model that was built through OSEI really got to the understanding of how to do that."

The skills that Bob gained through his work in COSEE New England have moved with him into his continuing efforts in education and outreach. "A lot of what I learned about scientists and teachers in that program has translated into the other programs that I'm involved in - the GK-12 program WISP, the Boston Science Partnership," says Bob, "that lesson about how to learn about the other's culture, gain trust, and work together to a positive result. Every time I do one of these programs the skills, the capacities, the knowledge that you learn in one will translate into the ability to do the next."

"How do you get collaboration across different cultures?"
Learning to work collaboratively has had far-reaching effects for Bob. "I was able to do a lot more as a professor after increasing my ability to work with people, to work with a different profession," he says. And being able to form successful collaborations can also translate into attracting funding. "With that increase in capacity came more opportunities to write grants, to working successfully in large centers, and to start centers."

One of the biggest hurdles in forming any collaboration is understanding each other's language. "Whether it's for researchers and educators, or physicists and biologists and earth scientists, or administrators and faculty members - being able to bridge two different cultures and facilitate interaction effectively has increased my capacity," says Bob. "I've gained respect and trust from teachers because now I can say the right thing, I can speak their vocabulary."

Learning to cross boundaries between scientists and educators has allowed Bob to work in collaborations that cross scientific and academic disciplines as well, such as CESN and COSMIC. "What I'm most engaged in now is running a collaboration, a partnership or a center," says Bob, "and I'm fascinated by that."

Francesco Peri
Francesco Peri, Ph.D., Research Associate and CESN Managing Director
The opportunity to collaborate has opened all kinds of doors
Billy Spitzer
Billy Spitzer, Vice-President New England Aquarium
Successful collaborating and successful grantwriting go hand-in-hand