Getting the Ideathon

I’ve been enjoying the interdisciplinary nature of the Brackenridge seminars in general — I like learning new things as I listen to other people talk about their research — but the Ideathon project took that interdisciplinary element to the next level. Our Ideathon group was genuinely diverse, with scientists like Hilary, social science students like Keith, and humanities students like me, and there was no obvious way to combine the backgrounds we all brought to the table. 

But what we found out is that each one of us is a programmer…and a marketing student…and an archival researcher…and a neurobiology major…and a classicist. OK, not really. But we did find a way to work together to put together a proposal (our project isn’t hosted on YouTube, and I’m not sure how to add a link) that crossed disciplinary boundaries. The interesting thing was that our project needed to center around a field that none of us belong to — education — so we were all a bit out of our element. That meant we were all on even footing, though, which I think helped our interdisciplinary discussion: Even if none of us studies higher education, we’re all in college, so we were able to identify and discuss a number of problems that we could seek to solve, finally settling on a project that aims to address some of the difficulties faced by first-generation college students as they attempt to settle in at college. Rather than start with our fields (“How can we incorporate neurobiology and marketing into a project about higher education?”), we started with a problem and worked from there. 

The Ideathon project was mostly, for me, a thinking exercise about how to cross disciplinary boundaries — I’m not sure there is a good project proposal out there that contains our six majors, although maybe we just didn’t think of it. I’m not sure I can say the Ideathon project caused me to change the way I think about my research. The collaborative nature of the project was definitely a change from the research I’ve been doing this summer, which requires me to set my own schedule, and in a way I was grateful for the accountability that comes with a group project. I’m interested in pursuing truly collaborative, interdisciplinary research in the future, and sharing the research experience with others for a long-term project. 

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