I had a really great experience working on the Ideathon with my group, and it was really cool to see such driven students working on vastly different projects coming together to solve a problem. One thing that struck me most about this interdisciplinary research project was all the ideas my group was able to generate, and how everyone came up with a unique solution to the prompt we were given. With a lot of the ideas we talked about (such as Rhea’s Mental Models approach and Katelyn’s knowledge on GIS data), these were aspects of the prompt that I personally would have never thought of on my own. I think this perspective was especially important given the nature of the prompt, as it allowed our group to look at the problem of diversity in higher education from lots of different angles. Our group was heavy in the STEM fields, but each person from a STEM field contributed something different and had a unique perspective to the prompt. Overall, this activity showed me how important it is to have an interdisciplinary approach to an interdisciplinary problem- it allows you to address as many aspects to the problem as you can.
I think our main challenge with communication was at the beginning of the process when we were narrowing down how we want to tackle this problem. The prompt itself was pretty general, and it posed an even greater challenge when we all looked at the problem in a different way due to our various backgrounds. We were able to combat this by taking a step back and focusing on an aspect that is affecting all of us currently- the impact of learning in a remote environment. Once we established that we wanted to focus on barriers to education in a remote environment, we checked in with everyone to see if we were all on the same page and ensured that all of our disciplines were included. Surprisingly, it was not too difficult to cover our disciplines since we were all very active in generating our proposal. We each worked on our own part of the presentation, but we consistently checked in with everyone to make sure that our part went along with the proposal as a whole.
I have never really looked at my own research to be interdisciplinary, but being part of the Brackenridge Fellowship is helped me to discover my own definition of the word “interdisciplinary”. In my lab, all of us are studying DNA repair mechanisms, but we are all looking at them in a different way. The aim of our research is to improve outcomes for cancer patients, and considering how broad and destructive cancer can be, approaching this problem requires a broad set of perspectives. In addition, our lab collaborates with other labs to ensure that the research we are doing is progressive and can make a difference in someone’s life. Overall, this experience of working with an interdisciplinary group has taught me how to approach a problem with a unique perspective, and how important it is to collaborate with others.
Link to our group’s presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1w3s5AW1oipAUMreofLSP3yQ9LPEOA6RvOazhYZ7RNJ0/edit?usp=sharing