Learning from Fellow Researchers During the Pandemic

    In reviewing the introductory blog posts from PittHonors, I confirmed my hope that the other Brackenridge projects would be fascinating. There is much to learn from my fellow fellows: in particular, I believe I can learn much about not only topics of research but methods of research. Having never conducted any form of scientific research apart from school assignments, I am curious to watch the STEM and Psychology-oriented projects, especially those from my cohort, develop over the course of the summer. I also hope to develop my skills in communicating research to those who may not be as well acquainted with my own subject: I know it will be a challenge to communicate research in, say, microbiology, to someone like me who hasn’t taken a biology class since high school, and likewise it may be a challenge to communicate my own research clearly to those less familiar with my own fields of philosophy, literature, and linguistics.

    A common thread among many Brackenridge projects is an interdisciplinary nature. I have to say I expected to see more research that fell neatly into a specific field or subject. Instead, I’ve read about projects that combine business and psychology, ethics and climate change, and more. In particular, I found the project proposal of Emmaline Rial interesting, whose work concerns digitized analysis of language on social media as it relates to politics. This strikes me as a somewhat similar subject to my own (a study of language) with an entirely different methodology. Whereas my work mainly involves reading (and writing about what I read), hers is an analysis of massive quantities of posts from which she must draw conclusions. Another especially interesting project is that of Chelsea Carver, which focuses on the relationship between mindset and academic success. She cites Carol Dweck in her introductory post (I read her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success a while ago), and her project specifically centers on the mindset of children and students. As someone who wants to be a teacher, I am curious to learn more about her findings.

    As I mentioned above, working with researchers across disciplines demands skills in communicating research, which I view as both an obstacle and opportunity for improvement. Another facet of the interdisciplinary group of Brackenridge Fellows is a very different effect of the Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing practices on each project: for someone like me, it is relatively easy to continue my project as originally conceived in isolation, but for those students conducting lab-based or social research, social distancing radically alters the methodology of their work. I empathize with these people, but look forward to working with them as they adapt and succeed in conducting valuable research. I’ve included with this post a picture of Katherine Ann Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider, a collection of short stories written largely during (and heavily focusing on) the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918, as well as an image of a manuscript edition of Boccaccio’s “Decameron,” a work of poetry about a group of young Italians who escape to the country side during the outbreak of the Bubonic Plague. Hopefully these serve as some sort of inspiration.

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