As a biological sciences student, I’ve spent the bulk of my college studies surrounded by other science students. My schedule every semester is full of lab and lecture courses focused on biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics, as well as time at my job in a biochemistry research lab. And while I’ve taken some interesting electives outside the sciences (particularly Intro to Film!) and taken a minor in Italian, the bulk of my studying and stress over grades and learning goes to my science courses. However, I’ve involved myself in extracurriculars (Habitat for Humanity and the marching band) where I can participate in activities that don’t center on my scientific studies. I get to build houses or make music while interacting with people of all sorts of majors. That’s a a part of my college career that I’ve really enjoyed! It feels like a necessary break from protein folding and organic chemistry mechanisms. And thus I’m really excited about the Brackenridge because I have the chance to interact with students doing research in super diverse fields.
Having spent the last 3 years focusing on scientific research, I know very little about research in the humanities and the social sciences. And as someone with a great deal of love and respect for humanities fields, I’m so excited for the chance to learn more about how research is done and applied, how research questions are formed and projects are structured. I think this will give me a much greater appreciation for the work that goes into humanities research and how projects are applied, as well as introduce me to techniques and ideas that I may be able to apply to my own research , either now or in the future. I don’t think scientific and humanities research need to be completely segregated, there’s a great deal of overlap in a lot of ways, and I look forward to being more exposed to this overlap.
Many of the more social science/humanities centric research projects differ greatly from my own project, focusing on people and their interactions rather than the interactions between small molecules like proteins and DNA. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t overlap in ideas and application. Rhea’s project about the application of telemedicine is super interesting to me, especially as someone interested in becoming a physician. Medicine and treatments for diseases are vital, but any application of scientific research isn’t actually applicable if medical care isn’t accessible. So I’m super interested to hear more about the ways that medical care can be made accessible through telemedicine. I’m also super excited about Melanie’s documentary about her grandmother with Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s runs in my family, so I know it’s something I will interact with as I grow older, and the causes of the disease are a center point in my research project. Projects like Melanie’s, though, show the importance of human experience in disease. Understanding pathways and causes are vital, but so is understanding the impact of diseases on those directly and indirectly affected.
I also look forward to discussing research projects and techniques with other scientific researchers. My cohort is rife with other projects that I’m either interested in or already familiar with. Kamron’s project on amyloid plaques in cardiovascular disease is particularly interesting because my project focuses on how misfolding of proteins leads to aggregates/amyloid plaques in diseases like Alzheimer’s. I’m super excited to see the overlaps of our research and discuss the different techniques we use (when we can actually be in the lab). I also spent 2 summers as an intern at a biotech company that studied cancer biomarkers, so I’m excited to read Ben’s literature review about just that. The different scientific projects in my cohort will give me an opportunity to learn more about other projects and techniques, and I’m excited to have scientific discussions with researchers outside of my own lab.
The point of the Brackenridge Fellowship is obviously to interact with researchers in other disciplines, and I think there’s a lot to be gained from interdisciplinary work. STEM research can benefit greatly from a larger scale understanding of impacts on people and societies, whether that be research in disease, the environment, or computer science. Conversely, social science and humanities research can benefit greatly from research and understanding in smaller scale causes and mechanisms that have larger scale effects. Interdisciplinary discussions can lend a greater deal of understanding and application to a problem. Obstacles chiefly lie in disconnects of understanding, especially when it comes to terms used and jargon. This can be mended with more communication and teaching, but it can feel like an insurmountable obstacle at times when terms and ideas feel very separate and different.
While there are obstacles in interdisciplinary research, I look forward to learning about techniques and applications of the diverse research projects among fellowship participants, and I know I will be able to take the experience with me into a future of interdisciplinary research and discussions.