Strength in Numbers

Working with my Ideathon group gave me great insight into how important and useful interdisciplinary research is. As a team with different perspectives and skill sets, we were able to build a proposal that was much stronger than anything one person could have done. The ideas that a lot of my teammates came up with were things I probably never would have thought of. Avani and Corey both do research in the health sciences, and they brought up the all too real fact about health care costs and how some students do not have health care because of it. I also noticed that, due to everyone’s personal research, every member of the group was able to bring something to the proposal that no one else could. For example, Ali was able to make a survey to gather data from students who had taken out FAFSA or private loans (which is what we were looking at), I was supposed to turn those qualitative answers into quantitative data with a computer algorithm, and Luke was able to analyze the statistical trends of the data. It was like a conveyer belt or an assembly line; each team member had a role in the project which sometimes had to be build off of something another member did. This project really showed me how powerful interdisciplinary research can be.

Since our project looked at how students finance their college education, the topic seemed to be easily grasped by everyone in the group. Communication of each person’s discipline was not really as issue. I think that the bigger issue between disciplines was that no one was really capable of thinking about the possibilities other disciplines could bring in. No one thought about the impact of heath care until Avani and Corey brought the point up. Once we heard what they had to say, we immediately added the idea to our proposal. When Melanie said she could easily put the video together, we believed her. When Luke said that he would be able to interpret the statistics of the data, we all agreed that would be his role in the project. The communication between disciplines was not an issue when we talked about our disciplines, but there was an initial roadblock of not being familiar with each other’s disciplines.

My independent research is exactly that, independent. I do not work with any other lab mate or grad student. Working with group members to achieve an overall goal was a new experience for me; there is not as much pressure to get your work done efficiently if there is no one that relies on your work to take their next steps. There were also more people to discuss and form ideas with. I think it is a very different experience, especially in COVID times.

Here is a link to our proposal:

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