The Interdisciplinary Revolution

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Modern research involving interdisciplinary work is undeniably revolutionary; the advances made possible by the establishment of connections between professions that were previously considered unrelated are remarkable. Having the unique opportunity to experience this myself via the Brackenridge Fellowship Ideathon allowed me to witness the omnipotence of this method of research. 

I have always been a proponent of utilizing collaborations between various disciplines to conduct novel research and advance multiple fields together. However, I have never before experienced interdisciplinary research of this scale before, having co-researchers spanning from health sciences, to humanities, to policy, all working in a cohesive manner. The Ideathon has changed my perspective about interdisciplinary research by providing me the opportunity to experience this style of research first-hand. Our project, one that would typically take significantly longer than anticipated if conducted alone or strictly with other science researchers, involved more than just the problem at hand. Beyond addressing the inequalities present in the public health system in Pittsburgh primarily for, but not limited to, university students, our proposal included a functioning method of solving the issue, and a proper method of traversing university policy to allow our idea to become a reality. 

The most concerning issue revolving interdisciplinary research is communication. Research is a vastly ranging term, including a plethora of fields and disciplines. Consequently, communication between individuals in different areas of research, each unique with their own jargon and specific methods, can pose a challenge. Nevertheless, there are simple strategies to rectify this that I have learned from my time engaging in the Ideathon. First, acknowledging that each person’s research is equally important and useful to the overall project is critical for proceeding. Second, listing out strengths of each individual and what they bring to the table will help divide the aspects of the project to the correct person. For example, in our project, it was evident that Ryan, a researcher involved in public policy, would tackle the intricacies of university regulations that would take me significantly longer to understand. Finally, understanding that those outside one’s discipline may not initially comprehend a topic foreign to their own discipline can ameliorate discussions between group members.  

This experience has widened my perspective on research methods and future directions. The fact that a project in one discipline can affect those in many other disciplines, and even be used in collaboration with others’ work to create revolutionary solutions is astounding. Upon completing the Ideathon, I have found myself contemplating new ways of tackling problems in my own research, and pondering on new ways in which the results from my project can help others. 

Link to Ideathon Proposal: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1wBtk-A9j5V7rZuCUkmwMoKOLMaV-goJbnkx3qaQt8Zc/edit?usp=sharing

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