Meet the Cannon Crew
Over these first weeks of the Brackenridge Fellowship, as we all begin to settle into the groove of weekly seminars and research, I have had the opportunity to begin to get to know my fellow cohort members. I am part of the group mentored by Josh Cannon, so we quickly dubbed ourselves the Cannon Crew!
One of the most appealing things to me about the Brackenridge Fellowship was the opportunity for interdisciplinary cooperation. As I said in my Introduction post last week, my research is centered on the interplay between Death and Immortality in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Though on the surface, my project might seem “niche,” I believe that the questions I am seeking to answer through my project are relevant across multiple fields of study. Life, death, and nature are topics that may be approached in starkly different ways by scholars of the humanities vs. scholars of various STEM fields. Additionally, with the additional common ground provided by The Lord of the Rings’ prominent place in mainstream pop culture, I was excited to interact with students outside my discipline and hopeful that they might find my research as interesting as I do.
After reading over everyone’s Introduction blog posts and in chatting with the Cannon Crew, I am so impressed by the breadth and significance of everyone’s individual projects. We are certainly a diverse group of scholars, and I’m so excited to see how everyone’s research develops over the course of this summer. I think that all of our projects have their similarities and differences, even if the similarities may sometimes be hard to see. Even in cases where our projects are more dissimilar, I believe that the skills we are learning and using in our research can be applied to one another’s work, helping us all to learn and grow. For example, just in my cohort, we have a wide collection of projects, from focus on cancer research, mental illness in literature, identity/colonialism in poetry, ethics, mathematic interpretations of language on social media, and even more. Some of our projects are more easily compared: Mikayla, Melanie and Junyi are looking into mental illness, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD respectively, and Kailen is looking into head and neck cancer. Mikayla and I are both analyzing classic literature to answer questions relating to human issues, while Gray and Melanie are both using their own life experiences as a lens for their studies. I find all of my cohort’s projects interesting, but I am especially intrigued by Gray’s and Mikayla’s, given my own area of study. (I love to see how others analyze literature.) Outside of my cohort, Luke Profy’s research on ancient mathematicians is fascinating to me. Like me, he is a double major in Classics—but very much unlike me, whose other major is Literature, his is Math. I am so impressed by the way he is combining his two areas of interest for this project, and can’t wait to see how it develops this summer.
While I’ve mentioned some benefits I’m excited about re: working with others from outside my discipline, there are definitely obstacles as well. The main one for me so far is comprehension—just reaching a deep enough level of understanding of work that is way outside of my own expertise. I am absolutely not a STEM person, and struggle to make sense of complex mathematical or scientific concepts. However, I think this can also be spun as a benefit for everyone involved! Learning to communicate our own research to others who might not understand our field is an incredibly important skill. Sometimes, even translating what is going on inside my brain to people who are familiar with my field can be a difficult task, so I fully believe that distilling the important information for complete outsiders will really improve my content presentation skills.
Lastly, while we may be studying different things, all of us Brackenridge scholars are absolutely able to connect over the simple fact that we are all doing research. At the heart of it, we are all looking for answers, and that comes with a lot of the same struggles and obstacles, no matter the specifics of our projects. Especially given the state of the world right now, I know that a lot of us are having a hard time trying to find our footing this summer. This is one thing that we have discussed in the Cannon Crew group chat, and even just having a circle of peers to vent and complain to is an excellent resource, and helped me to feel much less alone in my work.
Overall, I am excited to work further into my own research, and to see where everyone else (in my cohort and otherwise) goes with theirs!