My experience as a Brackenridge Fellowship participant changed both me as a researcher and my outlook on academic research. The Brackenridge Fellowship opened me up to the vast world of different types and methods of research. It taught me that research does not have to fall into a strictly defined concrete framework and that it is okay to change directions, experiment, and to not always know the answer. This is what keeps research exciting and allows us to find creative solutions to problems and new answers to questions. Learning about the immense scope of research being performed by recipients of the Brackenridge Fellowship alone opened my eyes to all of the ways research can be defined and accomplished. I met and talked to people who were tackling problems from new angles, answering questions through new lenses, and working on projects which crossed boundaries and spanned fields.
The most valuable experience from the Brackenridge Fellowship, however, is the feeling of connection. I feel connected to this incredible group of people doing mind-blowing things. I feel connected to the very heart of the University of Pittsburgh itself as a research institution. I feel connected to something big. I had the opportunity to interact with some of the brightest minds in the Pitt community and was lucky enough to learn about others’ experiences, their academic and personal paths, the obstacles they were facing, and what they were feeling. We all had this shared experience and, in talking to others from various fields, I felt validated in my own feelings and academic path. One of the hardest aspects of undergraduate research can be fear of failure, worry over not being good enough, and imposter syndrome. But the Brackenridge Fellowship brought its recipients together, and by listening to others share their common experiences in all different fields of research, I learned that we all were facing the same obstacles and that I wasn’t alone in how I felt. We are all worthy, smart, and have something incredible to offer to the world.
Now that the Brackenridge Fellowship is coming to a close, I hope to write a scientific paper consolidating my project and publish it in either a scientific or undergraduate journal. I hope to use the experiences, connections, and knowledge I gained throughout the fellowship to explore different paths after I graduate, whether that be work in industry, research, going abroad, or graduate school. I know that the Brackenridge experience will stay with me and guide me through different parts of my academic and professional career.