This week we were tasked with familiarizing ourselves with our cohort. Our scholar mentor is Josh Cannon, so naturally we named ourselves the Cannon Crew!
As I talked about in my introduction last week, I’m a senior nursing major. Growing up, I had always received my highest grades in science and math courses, so I knew I was destined for a career in the STEM field. In high school, I took electives that centered around these fields and distanced myself from the humanities. When coming to Pitt, I assumed the nursing curriculum would be too intensive to find room for electives outside of my core classes. However, I was given the opportunity to take psychology, art history of Europe, introduction to organized crime, and other interesting electives. I enjoyed these classes because it was a break from my science heavy coursework. I never knew how much I would like Renaissance paintings or theories behind childhood development until I was taking these general education classes. Sometimes, being in the nursing school makes me feel isolated from the rest of campus; not only because it’s up the hill, but also all of our classes are held in the same building in the same room with the same people.
This summer, I look forward to venturing out of my discipline and finding more ideas that interest me. For example, a lot of colleagues in my cohort are interested in literature, philosophy, and other fields I haven’t been exposed to. While they carry out their projects, I hope to learn about the fundamentals of their fields. Based on their introductory posts, I know their projects are interesting, but I can’t wait to see how I can take what they’ve taught me and apply it as a registered nurse. Also, my job as a nurse is to explain complex topics to my patients in an easy to understand way, so I hope to learn the most effective way of doing so by explaining my results to my cohort.
At first glance, my project seems to be unrelated to everyone else, but there are commonalities between topics and data collection methods. In terms of topics, Junyi, Mikayla, Melanie, and I are all investigating disorders and diseases. While I am focusing on head and neck cancer, Junyi is investigating participants with ADHD, Mikayla is looking at the stigmatization of mentally ill characters in literature, and Melanie is sharing her family’s lived experience with Alzheimer’s Disease. Each investigator is looking into different components of the diseases, but we may be able to understand our own topic better by seeing it from another investigator’s point of view. On the other hand, my topic is vastly different from Max and Gray’s but all three of us have chosen a small within the much broader topics of cancer research, ethics, and poetry respectively. We may experience similar obstacles like explaining the relevance of our projects to the broader audience. Also, other colleagues are performing retrospective analysis of existing information. Emmaline is looking at posts from Twitter and Sarah is reviewing Death and Immortality in Middle Earth. The data we extract from these existing sources will be different, but the process and obstacles we encounter may be similar. Finally, Mark has chosen to take an experimental approach to collecting data. Ultimately, the purpose of my research is to identify an area which needs improvement, so I can later suggest interventions related to health literacy to reduce readmissions for head and neck cancer patients. By seeing how Mark collects new data, I can see what the next step for my research looks like and anticipate problems I will run into. Everyone’s individual projects are interesting, but I am most interested in seeing how we will be able to collaborate for the ideathon!
This cohort truly represents the interdisciplinary nature of the Brackenridge fellowship which comes with its advantages and obstacles. Unfortunately, I have limited exposure to my colleagues’ areas of interest, so it may be difficult to understand their more complex ideas. But, this gives all of us the opportunity to practice using simple terminology to get our points across. Across disciplines there are different ways to answer a question. For example, in mathematics there is a right and a wrong answer, but in poetry there are infinite interpretations none of which are right or wrong. The way you come to an answer and the final result is different for everyone, so it may be difficult to decide on our approach and outcomes of interest. This year, the coronavirus has moved the fellowship online, so remote communication becomes an added obstacle. We have already discussed meeting over zoom and pretending we are together in a coffee shop, so I think we will be able to get work done and have fun at the same time!