Communication Across Disciplines

This summer I am excited to learn from my peers about other disciplines and how those in other fields conduct research. I have vague ideas about scientists in labs, but as I realized from reading Judy Zhang’s fascinating project about curing peanut allergies, I really don’t know all that much about medical research! Another thing that I am excited to learn from the other Brackenridge recipients this summer is about how people with various perspectives approach questions and problems differently. There are plenty of similarities and differences between both my project and those of the other students. I see a lot of similarities in people’s projects on a fundamental level: both Nicole Horan and Wyatt Kriebel want to help people with medical issues, and while Rachael Rosenstein’s project about Eastern European Jewish immigrant communities isn’t medical, it also has the capacity to improve lives by sharing stories of support and community. Everyone’s projects are filled with passion and creativity, and that’s easily the most recognizable similarity among this summer’s Brackenridge recipients. But there are differences as well—different approaches and philosophies and different subjects/disciplines. The breadth of topics from STEM to the humanities is a very positive difference for sure. There are also both benefits and obstacles to working in an interdisciplinary group. Having access to different perspectives is great and getting the opportunity to learn about new things in different fields is awesome. Another added benefit from working with others that study different topics from you is that it pushes you to get better at explaining your own project. Personally, it helped me during the application process to get feedback from friends and peers who did not know about the source material I was drawing from. This led me to reconfigure some of my explanations to include, for example, a definition of what a “symposium” even was and what it meant in the context of the specific literature I was citing. Without talking to an interdisciplinary group I think that my project would look very different from what it is now and I can’t wait to have more of these experiences throughout the summer. However, there are still some obstacles included in working with people across disciplines. The potential for confusion or miscommunication increases and the ability to present more nuanced aspects of a project decreases because sometimes specific background knowledge is required to get those parts of a study.

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