Through my Brackenridge experience, I came to understand that research process is rarely linear. As a person digs into their research question, unforeseen problems and challenges often appear. These problems can feel overwhelming and insurmountable, but with careful time, attention, and effort, some type of solution can often be found. One part of my research that really surprised me was how many environmental interferences could change my data in a way that didn’t relate to what I was actually looking for. For example, my project measures fluorescence as a method of measuring the concentration of certain substances. There are several ways in which measured fluorescence can be altered without concentration changing. Temperature, pH, and turbidity (cloudiness of water) all effect fluorescence measurements. From a young age, we learn that following the scientific method means changing only one variable and keeping all others as a constant or controlled value. In nature, many factors related to weather cannot be controlled. This was a challenge that I had to struggle through. I had to work to understand how data collected in an environment where a variety of weather factors which would significantly affect it could still be considered valid. In the end, I learned that a variety of corrections for temperature and other conditional fluctuations could be applied. However, the process made me realize that research is often not a linear process, there are often setbacks and stumbling blocks that must be overcome to move forward.
The thing I found most valuable about my Brackenridge experience was learning how to effectively communicate what my research is about to people of all fields. We spent several weeks learning how to concisely define the problem our research addresses, the purpose of our research, and the significance of any findings. This taught us to clearly explain what our research was about and why someone might care. To better explain topics and methods to people outside the field, we were taught about using metaphors to put concepts in terms everyone is familiar with. Effective communication is important to every aspect of life. I know that the skills I learned in Brackenridge will be useful to me in many aspects beyond just research.
Moving forward, I’m hoping to continue the work of my Brackenridge by completing my in-lab analysis for my project in the fall semester. I may also use this research experience to pursue a Bachelor of Philosophy. After I graduate this spring, I plan to enter the work force with the possibility of going onto to graduate school.