About Bridging Barriers


Bridging Barriers serves as an incubator for some of the boldest interdisciplinary projects at The University of Texas at Austin by supporting researchers from across the Forty Acres as they form broad teams tasked with identifying urgent issues — and figuring out the best way to solve them in less than a decade.

These projects are rooted in collaboration and academic freedom to produce practical solutions to social, environmental, and humanitarian crises. UT researchers are partnering with communities, nonprofits, local government agencies, and industry leaders to design solutions that will have real-world impact.  

A brief history

In 2016, The University of Texas at Austin introduced an initiative with one overarching mission: bridge academic silos and foster research that addresses the toughest questions facing humanity and the world.

Like other grand challenge initiatives, Bridging Barriers brings researchers together from dozens of disciplines to address major issues affecting our world. But Bridging Barriers is unique in its origin: Every aspect of each project, from concept to kickoff, has been dreamed and designed by UT researchers and their graduate students.

Annual Reports

Flip through our interactive FY21 annual reports, or browse our past reports to learn more about the progress we've made to date.

Good Systems


Planet Texas 2050


Whole Communities–Whole Health


Bridging Barriers Support Team

Daniel Jaffe
Vice President
Office of the Vice President for Research, Scholarship and Creative Endeavors

Jennifer Lyon Gardner
Deputy Vice President
Office of the Vice President for Research, Scholarship and Creative Endeavors

Tessa Green
Executive Director, Collaborative Research Engagement

Micaela Buda
Administrative Assistant

Meredith Chandler
Events Program Coordinator

Cinda Christian
Research Development Officer

Chelsea Comer
Administrative Associate

Alison Fiorenza
Sr. Events Program Coordinator

Clinton Leysath
Program Director, Whole Communities–Whole Health

Loida Martinez
Events Program Coordinator

Lea Sabatini
Program Director, Good Systems

Heidi Schmalbach
Program Director, Planet Texas 2050

Weston Rose
Research Communications Manager

Paula Thomas
Research Development Operations Manager