Interdisciplinary Studies

University of California, Berkeley


The Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major (ISF) is part of the Office of Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies (UGIS) in the College of Letters and Science. It is one of many interdisciplinary programs, but only one of two (with American Studies) that requires a senior thesis of each major. ISF offers students the unique opportunity to develop an individualized cross-disciplinary Research Program that includes a Course of Study and a Senior Thesis. The Course of Study is made up of courses taken in the social sciences, the humanities, and/or the professional schools and colleges. Each student, with the help of a faculty adviser, follows a coherent Course of Study drawing on upper division courses. Each student also, under the direction of a faculty adviser, produces a 30-40 page Senior Thesis, a sustained inquiry, based on original, cross-disciplinary research.

ISF has identified a number of Interdisciplinary Research Fields that have engendered excellent scholarship and attracted students across campus.  Although ISF students may pursue other research fields identified in consultation with ISF faculty and academic advisers, the ISF Research Fields provide models and resources about scholarly interests shared by many ISF students and across campus.  Research fields are dynamic bodies of knowledge that form and develop through a series of debates articulated around a given set of interdisciplinary topics, research questions, and theories.  The Research Fields found on the ISF website are there to help ISF students identify their own research interests and customize their own research program and course of study.


Students must apply to the ISF Major with a well-conceived Research Program, including a proposed course of study and an intellectual justification of their proposed study.  Research programs must be interdisciplinary, integrating methodological or theoretical approaches from at least three academic disciplines (departments or programs). Interdisciplinary work may be comparative, historical, regional, thematic, or problem-focused.  The Research Program should not replicate an existing major.  The purpose of the ISF major is to allow undergraduates to combine work across disciplines in courses and with faculty where no other structured program exists.  Finally, the Research Program must be feasible, and the Senior Thesis must answer a manageable research question in a semester's hard work (ISF 190).  Each student's proposed Research Program is discussed with and approved by a faculty adviser to assure feasibility, but the final responsibility lies with the student.

The ISF Major emphasizes the role of the faculty adviser and the student-adviser relationship.  The nature of the major requires repeated elaboration of the proposed Research Program, Course of Study, and Senior Thesis that best combine students' individual research interests and the ISF program goals.  Students are assigned an adviser upon acceptance into the major, although faculty members outside ISF may serve as advisers when appropriate, as approved by the ISF Director.  For more on advising, see the Student Handbook.

Undergraduate Program

Interdisciplinary Studies: BA (Group Major)

Graduate Program

There is no graduate program in Interdisciplinary Studies.

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Peter Sahlins, ProfessorEarly modern France, animal-human relations, immigration, citizenship and nationality in pre-modern Europe.
Research Profile


Rakesh Bhandari, LecturerClassical Social Theory's Images of Asia, The Juridical Aspects of Unfree Labor Relations, The Role of Luxury Consumption in Economic Growth, The Nature and Limits of Keynesian Intervention, The Discourses of Social Darwinism.

Shreeharsh Kelkar, LecturerHistory and anthropology of computing, work, and expertise in the 20th century.

Gary Wren, LecturerTechnology & Society; Development Studies; Social/Political Theory.

Fang Xu, LecturerSocial inequality and cultural identity. Globalization, displacement, and language endangerment.

Contact Information

Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major Program

263 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-643-7691

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Program Director

Peter Sahlins, PhD (Department of History)

265 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-664-4315

Program Associate Director

Rakesh Bhandari, PhD

267 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-664-4420

Academic Adviser

Patrick Civello, MS

263 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-643-7691

Faculty Adviser

Shreeharsh Kelkar, PhD

269 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-642-0660

Faculty Advisor

Amm Quamruzzaman, PhD

275 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-642-1344

Faculty Adviser

Gary Wren, PhD

239 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-642-2087

Faculty Adviser

Fang Xu, PhD

269 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-642-0660

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