“Crosstalk” between Disciplines

Of the members of my cohort, it seems there is a great mix of science, humanities, arts, and business. Devesh’s project investigating genetic mutations that may affect acute encephalitis is extremely interesting and similar to my own biology-based research, and on the other end of the spectrum, studying topics equally-fascinating I know very little about, are Kevin, who’s looking into how different socio-economic backgrounds affect career choice, and Vincent, who’s studying history, usage, and dynamics of alliterative verse!

The picture I included in this post is a figure from my lab meeting this afternoon. We were discussing the ACE2 protein, which binds zinc in order to convert Ang II to Ang-(1-7), and is involved in signaling pathways that may protect against neuronal damage. ACE2 is also the protein that SARS-CoV2 binds to, so studying the effect of zinc on ACE2, as well as the pathways it’s involved in, may be crucial to understanding more about COVID-19 and neurodegenerative disease.

I’m realizing as I attempted to put that in layman’s terms just how difficult it is not to include a bunch of neurobiology jargon—particularly after just emerging from my little lab bubble where everyone are experts in the same field! Learning to effectively communicate my research to intelligent scholars outside my field is one of the lessons I hope to gain from the Brackenridge fellowship. This is a skill that I have been working on in experiences similar to Brackenridge, but still something I haven’t quite perfected and still sometimes find difficult. As this incredible group of Brackenridge fellows in all sorts of disciplines continue to share our work with each other and learn from each other, I anticipate that we will be able to overcome the obstacle of conveying research in a cross-disciplinary setting.

The reason I’m sharing this picture is because seeing all the lines and arrows connecting ACE2 to different proteins and pathways reminded me of the connections between different research disciplines, in a way. In biology, there’s a concept of crosstalk, which means that one or more components of one signaling pathway affects another. Put this on a large scale, and you’ll see that every pathway, such as the one I included in this post, somehow is able to connect to different pathways—some of which we don’t even know about yet.

I see the same thing happening with different fields of research: beyond my work on the biology of disease, Kailen is looking into the nuances of clinical application, health literacy, and health determinants; then Corey is delving into the archives to learn about the history of healthcare in Pittsburgh, especially pertaining to immigrants; then Philippa, who’s exploring map-making as a different means of understanding the historical significance of places having to do with freedom…the way that neurobiology connects to clinical medicine connects to history of healthcare connects to history of gentrification just goes to show how interdisciplinary the world really is.

I’m very excited to participate in a group of diverse scholars, not only learning to share my research to educated people outside my field, but also making connections between out studies and broadening my knowledge and interests in a wide spectrum of disciplines. I can’t wait to learn about the ethics of climate change from Zongkai, the effect of parental praise on children’s cognitive skills from Chelsea, and constructed languages from Gabe (I’ve always wondered how they came up with the Dothraki language from Game of Thrones). Looking forward to findings new interdisciplinary pathways and “crosstalking” with my fellow scholars this summer!

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