The ATLAS Institute is one of 12 research centers at CU Boulder, each of which is uniquely positioned to cut across the vertical hierarchy of colleges, departments and programs. Institutes are deliberately interdisciplinary, drawing faculty from several departments to embark on unconventional lines of inquiry.
Some of the most valuable research takes place in the overlaps, intersections and margins. “We believe really interesting stuff happens in the spaces between disciplines,” says Mark D Gross, ATLAS Director. The institute aims to find and explore more of these often-overlooked areas as they tend to attract amazing people—those who could easily work in conventional departments, but whose interests are broader and more disparate.
At ATLAS, we have researchers from computer science, mechanical engineering, information science, music and the humanities working in close proximity. Gross explains, “As a community, our backgrounds are quite diverse, and you’ll see that as you visit our labs and meet our faculty and their students. I like to say that we breed and attract technology visionaries and virtuosos: people who have wild ideas and the technical ability to realize those ideas themselves.”
We’ve seen this approach pay dividends. Of our eight research-active faculty members, three have NSF CAREER grants, considered among the most prestigious awards for teacher-scholars.
The ATLAS community has also recently garnered national media attention for a number of projects. Carson Bruns, director of the Laboratory for Emergent Nanotechnology, has been recognized for his work on tattoos that embed new technologies in the skin. Michael Rivera, director of the Utility Research Lab, has been spotlighted for research on transforming spent coffee grounds into a compostable 3D printing medium.
We make tangible and digital tools and methods that shape how people interact with the world: things you can hold, wear, hear and play with; materials designers can use to realize their own visionary ideas; systems that change the way you interact with computers and the way computers interact with you. This manifests in disparate ways—from complex woven forms to innovative biomaterials to haptics that respond with emotion-driven gestures to music improvisation with sonified brainwaves.
Explore for yourself at the ATLAS Research Open House
Once a year, ATLAS opens its doors so the community can go hands-on with the radically inventive projects we pursue. The ATLAS Research Open House is a chance for lab teams to directly engage with colleagues, potential collaborators and those curious about boundary-breaking research. Stop by to discover what our labs are working on in the spaces between disciplines.