Going into the Brackenridge Fellowship this summer, one of the things I was most looking forward to was interacting with student scholars from a range of disciplines. I have already had several opportunities to do so, through spending time in my cohort and through attending seminar sessions, but the Ideathon pitch has definitely been the most hands-on interdisciplinary experience. I don’t think that the project necessarily changed my perspective on interdisciplinary research, but it certainly strengthened my view that interdisciplinary collaboration is invaluable when it comes to research and application, and it also gave me actual experience to connect to my existing perceptions of how it would be like to work closely with other scholars outside my discipline.
My Ideathon group was composed of students with expertise in literature, classics, linguistics, biochem, engineering, philosophy, and even more. Despite the diversity of our majors, I think we all did really well at communicating with one another and finding ways to adjust each of our unique perspectives to make sense to the whole group. We met several times over Zoom, used a group chat, and collaborated using Google Docs to brainstorm, work on, and eventually complete our proposal, and then to film our pitch.
One cool thing about this experience was that it made for a unique look at others’ research processes. Like I said before, interacting with my cohort has given me a bit of a window into how other students are working on their projects, but the Ideathon was different because we literally were all actively working on this proposal together. It was interesting to watch everyone’s brains working in real time as we brainstormed and problem solved for our proposal, and it also became clear how each of our experiences and backgrounds in our own disciplines shaped the ways that we think. For me, a Literature & Classics major, I noticed that my ways of thinking tended to align more smoothly with the other humanities members of my group, whereas the STEM members of the group seemed to experience the same thing but amongst themselves. This was a good thing, though, as it gave us all the opportunity to share those ways of thinking and suggest new angles for our project that we likely wouldn’t have thought of on our own. This was actually perfect for our project, too: as seen in our video pitch above, our project intends to discover and implement the most effective ways of learning, not just for students with disabilities or for students from any one discipline, but the entire student body. So, our proposal is very clearly interdisciplinary by nature—it only makes sense that the group working on it should be interdisciplinary as well.
Overall, the Ideathon was a valuable experience and I had a great time working with the other students in my group. In addition to sharing new perspectives and hearing about everyone else’s research, working together was simply fun. It was an awesome opportunity to socialize with other research-minded students, especially given the difficulties we’ve had with going out/human interaction this summer!