The 10 on the Team: Dr. Yun Kang
Dr. Yun Kang is a professor of Applied Mathematics at ASU. She established well-funded interdisciplinary research programs in Mathematics of Complex Adaptive Systems and mentored numerous graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom are underrepresented and minorities. Dr. Kang is active in encouraging women and girls to pursue careers in STEM and serves as American Mathematical Society (AMS) Representative to the Joint Committee on Women in the Mathematical Sciences.
What are 5 qualities of highly effective teams?
Of those 5 qualities – is there 1 that is an absolute essential? Why?
What facilitates good team communication?
What is kryptonite to a good team?
Lack of communication with a hostile working environment could quickly make a good team collapse.
What are ways in which teams can “grow”/develop their team-ness?
There hasn’t been a lot of talk of mathematics as a discipline, and modeling as a practice, in the field of interprofessionalism thus far. How do you think mathematical approaches could help inform team-based healthcare delivery?
Healthcare delivery is a Complex Adaptive System (CAS) whose thinking is an approach that challenges simple cause and effect assumptions, and instead sees healthcare and other systems as a dynamic process. One where the interactions and relationships of different components simultaneously affect and are shaped by the system over time.
There are quite a few students in my classes/lab who are using dynamic modeling of CAS to provide important insights on what would be the best strategies on team-based work that can apply to healthcare delivery such as in the (emergency room) ER. For example, how staff, nurses, and doctors from an ER should work collectively in the most efficient way possible to provide the needed care for urgent need patients of ER patients who are in critical condition.
You are clearly a champion of the “interdisciplinary arts.” In working with scholars from various fields, what have you found to be successful in navigating typically siloed approaches and encouraging collaborative thinking?
Thank you. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Arizona State University (ASU) who has been cultivating and encouraging multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work. In my successful collaborations with scholars from biology, epidemiology, psychology and social sciences, I have found that it is important to be open minded and I appreciate their work through reading their work prior to meetings and using “their language” during discussions.
In addition, it is essential to bring in graduate students who work with both sides and serve as a bridge to connect both sides. In the meantime, graduate students are beneficiaries of these collaborations as they obtain “specific core knowledge / goodness” from both disciplinaries.
You believe strongly in the power of mentoring (on various levels). Do you think of mentoring as a team sport?
Yes, I strongly believe in mentoring as it is an important and integral part of a successful team. Strong mentoring helps create an open, inviting culture that emboldens all teammates to contribute their ideas for improving the team. Specifically, it provides each member with the opportunity to develop and become more competent in their roles as well as prepare for growth opportunities in the future.
Your work on social insects explores questions like, “How does the organization of complex social groups scale relative to environmental conditions and constraints?” What can insects like bees, ants, and termites tell us about team design and how teams “adapt” to different environments?
The modeling and experiment work on social insect colonies shows that a colony is a complex adaptive system that behaves as integrated units and operates as distributed cooperated systems with no central controller, such that higher level group organizational patterns are driven in large part by self-organization.
Self-organization allows the simple behaviors of individuals to generate complex outcomes for the group with important properties such as resiliency, the ability to recover or maintain function in the face of environmental perturbation, and robustness, the ability to maintain an internal program or trajectory within a dynamic environment.
You are given the choice to be an ant, a honeybee, a termite, or a wasp – which do you choose and why?
Social insects are cute and sophisticated in their own way. We have so much to learn from their efficient and robust organizations. If I was required to choose only one species, then it would be the Honeybee as I am very sweet (most of the time). And if needed, I don’t mind using my life to sting the “bad guys” in exchange for protection for my people/team!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for the interview that provides me an opportunity to know the wonderful program - CAIPER. Both healthcare and social insect colonies are Complex Adaptive Systems. It would be wonderful to adopt math modeling from social insect colonies to applications in healthcare for more insights.